APG case attacked by defense, activists 11th black drill sergeant faces charges in sex case

April 01, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

The Army's sexual misconduct case at Aberdeen Proving Ground sustained sharp attack yesterday from civil rights activists, defense attorneys, and black soldiers even as Army leaders pressed charges against an 11th black drill sergeant.

Staff Sgt. Marvin C. Kelley, 33, of Hartsville, S.C., will face a court-martial on charges of adultery, obstruction of justice, and falsifying a sworn statement. The allegations against the 13-year Army veteran involve three women formerly under his command -- one white and two black.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson argued in a post courtroom that Aberdeen's commanding officers and Pentagon officials have essentially ordered military juries to reach guilty verdicts against the 13-year enlisted man.

The motion, one of nine that defense attorneys filed, offered a window onto the Army's behind-the-scenes stage managing of the Aberdeen sex scandal.

According to testimony, Army investigators were briefing Maj. Gen. John E. Longhouser, the Aberdeen post commander, and Gen. Daniel A. Doherty, head of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, almost daily. And Gen. Dennis J. Reimer, the Army's top officer, was briefed weekly as the case unfolded secretly before Reimer's November news conference announcing charges.

The defense argument focused on the "command response team," a panel of Army investigators, military police, and public affairs specialists created by Maj. Gen. Robert D. Shadley, commander of the Ordnance Center and School.

"There was an interconnection between the Pentagon and the Aberdeen chain of command here," said Maj. Mike Sawyers, a Simpson lawyer. "There was no independent thought going on."

But prosecutors said it remained unproved that the public comments of Army leaders influenced the investigation or tainted the military jury pool. Col. Paul Johnston, the judge at the court-martial, appeared skeptical of the defense claim that Simpson cannot receive a fair trial because of "unlawful command influence" imposed by Army Secretary Togo West, assistant Army Secretary Sara Lister, and Reimer. He could rule on the motion this week.

Simpson, 32, has been jailed at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., since Sept. 11. He faces life in prison if convicted on more than 150 counts of rape, forcible sodomy, assault, and other charges involving 27 women -- 11 of whom say they were raped.

The Army announced an additional rape count yesterday along with six additional charges involving four female recruits. Army prosecutors also dropped one charge each yesterday of rape and forcible sodomy, and several lesser charges, against Simpson.

Late yesterday, the Harford County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People arranged a news conference featuring seven black drill sergeants -- six men and one woman. With their backs to a bank of cameras -- hands crossed, heads bowed and covered by jackets or pillow cases -- the soldiers said investigators were unfairly targeting them because of race.

"They are afraid to show their faces because they know that General Shadley, Togo West and Dennis Reimer won't take care of them," said Leroy W. Warren Jr., who chairs the criminal justice committee of the national NAACP. "Instead of blacks being lynched in a tree, they are being lynched on the job."

Army officials defend their investigation. "This is about allegations of crime and leaders who allegedly abused their power," said Paul Boyce, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command. "It has less to do with sex or race than it does with leadership and compassion for their fellow man or woman."

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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