Aberdeen female private cleared of lying charges But she pleads guilty to 5 offenses unrelated to sex misconduct case

April 07, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Army officials yesterday dropped charges against a female private that she lied to military investigators when she swore she had consensual sex with a drill sergeant at Aberdeen Proving Ground, then recanted the charge 10 days later.

Pvt. Toni Moreland, who last month accused Army investigators of trying to coerce false rape allegations against male soldiers, is the only female defendant to face court-martial at Aberdeen on charges related to the sexual misconduct case.

Moreland pleaded guilty to five unrelated minor offenses during the summary court-martial. Capt. Christopher Eden, who supervised the court-martial, sentenced Moreland to 16 days in jail and fined her $300, about a third of a month's pay.

After the court-martial, Moreland shocked local civil rights leaders by declaring that "race is not an issue" in the sexual misconduct case where 11 black Aberdeen soldiers have been charged since early November. No white soldiers face charges stemming from allegations by 56 female recruits, prompting black members of Congress and officials of the NAACP to question the Army's investigation as racially motivated.

"She [Moreland] was a little emotionally confused," said Janice Grant, president of the Harford County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It really hit her."

In the court-martial, the Army dropped the only two charges against Moreland related directly to the sexual misconduct case -- making false statements under oath.

Those charges date to mid-October when Moreland told Army investigators she had consensual sex with Staff Sgt. Marvin C. Kelley, 33, a drill instructor in Moreland's Bravo Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion.

Ten days later, after consulting an Army chaplain, she recanted at least two statements.

Eden dismissed one of the charges against Moreland on a technicality. He ruled that Army lawyers had failed to properly word the charge so that it stated an actual military crime.

He was also concerned that Moreland had not been properly advised of her rights before making the statement -- criticism she and four other current and former privates who are female made against Army investigators last month during a nationally televised news conference.

Prosecutors dropped the second charge of false statements because they did not want to pay to fly in witnesses who are no longer at Aberdeen, Army officials said.

Kelley, meanwhile, faces seven counts of sexual misconduct involving seven female recruits. But Ed Starnes, a spokesman for the Ordnance Center and School, said none of the charges was the result of Moreland's statements.

Moreland, who has been in the Army 11 months, first ran into trouble in October for disobeying an order unrelated to the sexual misconduct case.

In a disciplinary hearing, Army officials punished her with a fine and by limiting her to the barracks, mess hall, chapel and duty station for 45 days. But after 15 days, she left Aberdeen for her parents' wedding.

Moreland, 21, pleaded guilty yesterday to being absent from Aberdeen without leave from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2 when she returned to her St. Louis home for the remarriage of her divorced parents. She also admitted to disobeying an order, breaching punitive restrictions on her movement and twice failing to show up for duty in January.

Stuart J. Robinson, her attorney, immediately filed a request to delay her jail term until the ruling could be appealed. But Col. Roslyn M. Glantz, the post's No. 2 officer, rejected the request. Moreland was expected to report to the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., last night.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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