New detail emerges at Aberdeen Sergeant is accused of 9 rapes involving 3 recruits in 3 months

Court-martial of trio likely

Two other sergeants face discipline for alleged improper acts

November 10, 1996|By Tom Bowman and JoAnna Daemmrich | Tom Bowman and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

Instructors at an Aberdeen Proving Ground school found many ways to abuse their power over young female Army recruits, creating an atmosphere of improper intimacy and sometimes vicious intimidation, documents released yesterday allege.

The first details of a growing sex scandal at the U.S. Ordnance Center and School at APG emerged when the Army released criminal charges against three military trainers.

The documents show:

Sgt. Delmar Simpson, 31, is accused of raping three female recruits he was training at Aberdeen Proving Ground a total of nine times within three months.

Capt. Derrick Robertson, 30, a soldier for 11 years and a company commander, is accused of raping a student with whom he'd been having a relationship and telling her to lie about it if questioned.

Sgt. Nathanael C. Beach, 32, a Persian Gulf war veteran, allegedly had consensual sex with two female recruits, discussed his religious beliefs and ordered one to write a research paper for him, then disobeyed orders to stay away while he was under investigation.

The three men, who are expected to be court-martialed, have denied the charges.

Two other sergeants face disciplinary action for improper relations with trainees, including one who wrote a love letter to a trainee.

Taken together, the documents portray an Army post far different from the disciplined image of drill instructors sternly shouting orders to fresh recruits.

Fifteen additional Army sergeants have been suspended at the school in the scandal as female soldiers continue to come forward with tales of sexual harassment as well as prohibited personal relationships with superiors, the Army announced yesterday. The allegations range from lewd comments to assault.

Of the 15 who have been suspended from training the recruits and assigned to other duties, at least two are expected to face court-martial charges for improper relations, said Army sources.

Seventeen recruits have made allegations against their trainers in incidents that extend at least to spring. Army officials learned of the sexual misconduct allegations when a young woman reported in September that she had been raped.

Many of the women were pulled into relationships and endured abuse because they feared retribution from their supervisors, said an Army source close to the investigation.

"A lot of them got influenced because they thought they would get in trouble or get kicked out of the military if they didn't obey," the source said. "That's why a lot of them fell for what some of the sergeants said. The trainees are taught to put trust in their drill sergeants."

The most extensive charges are against Simpson, who is being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va.

In addition to accusations that he raped the three women, he is charged with one attempted rape, three counts of sodomy on two female soldiers and six counts of indecent assault against four female soldiers. In all, he is accused by eight women, although it was unclear from the edited documents how many charges related to the same women.

He is alleged to have had consensual sex with seven of them and faces other charges of "maltreatment of a subordinate."

Simpson is accused of threatening three female soldiers, according to the documents, allegedly telling one: "If anyone finds out about me having sex with you, I'll kill you." He warned another, "I am going to knock your teeth out and get away with it," the documents say. Two of the four students who accuse him of "indecent acts" say he grabbed or rubbed their buttocks.

Capt. Edward Brady, Simpson's attorney, said it is too soon to comment on the investigation. "Staff Sergeant Simpson believes there is an appropriate time and an appropriate place to present the facts. He has professed his innocence since the beginning and he continues to do so today," Brady said.

Military rules forbid personal or sexual relationships between officers and their subordinates. "Fraternization" is barred because of the power imbalance and because of the disruption to the unit.

Fraternization can be as simple as calling a recruit by his or her first name or having a drink with a recruit, but the charges generally involve romance. Penalties vary from restrictions and counseling of a new recruit to two years in jail and a dishonorable discharge.

Robertson, in his vehement denial of the rape charge, said it was brought by a disgruntled girlfriend, but he admitted he was guilty of having an improper relationship with the trainee.

"How often do officers have relationships with soldiers? I can't begin to tell you," Robertson said in an interview at his Joppatowne home yesterday. "I can't pinpoint for you how many times something like that happens, but it happens. Everybody knows it happens."

Such romances are not uncommon at the ordnance school -- or other Army installations, he said.

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