The general's wife, Rebecca Sinclair, has defended her husband and blamed the stress of multiple combat deployments. "He made some mistakes, and they were painful ones," she wrote in an email.

She added, "The political climate and many of the decisions challenge my faith in a fair system."

The defense contends that the captain falsely accused Sinclair of forcing her into oral sex in order to avoid adultery charges that would ruin her career.

At a preliminary hearing in November 2012, the captain said, Sinclair became enraged when she tried to break off the affair. She said Sinclair told her "I belonged to him" and forbade her to have sex with her boyfriend.

The woman said that in 2009, Sinclair threatened to kill her and her family if she exposed the affair. But she testified that she continued to have consensual sex with him for two years afterward.

They also exchanged sexually explicit emails and text messages.

"My goodness, baby, you know how to turn me on," she wrote in one message. In another, she called Sinclair "my beautiful, handsome, remarkable man" and told him, "I love you with all that I am."

The captain also testified that Sinclair was insulting and condescending toward her and other female soldiers. She said that when she made a mistake, he told her, "You're just a girl," and that he used profanities to describe other female soldiers.

When she challenged him, she testified, he replied with a vulgarity, telling her he could say whatever he wanted because he was a general.

Last week Sinclair's lawyer accused the captain of perjury after she testified at a motions hearing about a cellphone she said she had recently found containing more messages from Sinclair. The defense said the captain had failed to turn in the phone promptly and lied about when she discovered it.

The judge authorized the defense to examine the phone and several others owned by the captain.

Before the proliferation of military sexual abuse cases in recent years, some military law experts say, Sinclair may well have been allowed to quietly plead guilty to adultery and leave the service.

Historically, generals and admirals accused of misconduct have been dealt with out of the spotlight and given administrative punishments, said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale.

But because of the political climate and the sensational nature of the allegations against Sinclair, Fidell said, "it just wasn't possible for this case to be swept under the rug."