Aberdeen soldier won't face court-martial in sex scandal

February 20, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

One of the first three soldiers charged in the Aberdeen Proving Ground sex scandal that rocked the military will not be court-martialed, Army officials announced yesterday.

Staff Sgt. Nathanael C. Beach, 32, will instead have his case decided in a less-serious disciplinary forum, one that would not lead to jail time.

Beach, a former instructor at the U.S. Ordnance Center and School, was charged last fall with committing adultery by having consensual sex with two female recruits, discussing his religious beliefs with a recruit, ordering a recruit to write a research paper for him, and disobeying orders to stay away from recruits while he was under investigation.

Beach's lawyer, Capt. Vincent N. Avallone, declined to comment on the decision other than to say that Beach is "looking forward to resolving the matter and getting on with his life."

Avallone had complained that his client was being unfairly linked in the sex scandal with Capt. Derrick Robertson and Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, who face more serious charges, including rape.

The scandal, which broke in November at Aberdeen, spurred almost 200 investigations throughout the military and led to courts-martial and suspensions of dozens of drill sergeants and instructors. It also led Army officials to establish a sexual assault and harassment hot line, which was flooded with calls.

Beach will face a nonjudicial proceeding that could lead to loss of pay or reduction in grade, along with restrictions. A court-martial could have brought a discharge and jail.

A decision to move to a so-called Article 15 proceeding is dependent on a number of factors, including the strength of the case. Army officials declined yesterday to say what factors led to the decision.

Jessica Bleckley, one of Beach's accusers and a former Aberdeen trainee whose allegations sparked the investigation, recently charged that the Army coerced her into signing a statement clearing the way for charges against Beach to be dropped.

Maj. Susan Gibson, deputy staff judge advocate at Aberdeen, said Bleckley was contacted by officials later to see if she wished to withdraw statements that she wanted to be spared the trauma of a public trial.

"We always take into consideration the recommendations of the victims," Gibson said. "She did not withdraw her earlier statement."

Calls to Bleckley -- who returned to her hometown in South Carolina after being discharged after a reported suicide attempt -- were not returned yesterday.

Army officials also announced yesterday that another former instructor, Sgt. Isiah Chestnut, has been discharged in lieu of a court-martial.

Chestnut, 26, was charged with improper relations with four female trainees and with indecent assault. Gibson declined to say what type of discharge Chestnut received.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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