Soldier's defense to begin today Sergeant's lawyers to call 1st witnesses in Aberdeen case

April 18, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

In a week of explicit testimony in the Aberdeen Proving Ground scandal, Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson -- charged with 58 criminal counts, including 19 rapes -- has been portrayed as a sexual menace who painstakingly exploited the weaknesses of young female trainees.

The six women who alleged rape lived in small-town America, protected places such as Geneva, Ala., Turon, Miss., and Clarksburg, Pa. They saw the Army as a place "to grow up a little bit" after high school, as one put it, and to earn money for college.

Each also had her own vulnerability -- from an abusive husband to a bad knee to disciplinary problems. Simpson found ways of using those weaknesses, according to five days of prosecution testimony, which ended yesterday.

The defense will begin its case today.

According to one 20-year-old private, Simpson asked women in his class to "raise their hands if they were stressed out." He then asked each to come see him.

The private said she told Simpson she was worried about being kicked out of the Army for a disciplinary problem. She said he told her he would fix it and later talked about it to his commanding officer, Capt. Derrick Robertson. Her problem was resolved, but Simpson told her, "Now you owe me," and he later had sex with her, she testified.

"The only thing he said to me was, 'You know if you tell anyone about this, I'm going to hurt you,' " the private said. "I didn't think anyone would believe me because I'd been in trouble before. And he was a drill sergeant. He was supposed to take care of me."

Simpson has admitted to having consensual sex with 11 female soldiers, including five of the six women the Army says he raped.

But Simpson's lawyers, who have been increasingly short-tempered during testimony from 13 female accusers, said they will begin showing today as they call their first witnesses that Army investigators embellished the women's statements and that female soldiers lied to conceal consensual relationships with Simpson.

"There's still half a trial to take place," said Frank J. Spinner, Simpson's civilian attorney.

Yesterday's testimony came amid additional allegations of complicity by drill sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Simpson's alleged crimes.

The Aberdeen case has prompted a militarywide probe of sexual misconduct in the ranks. Twelve Aberdeen soldiers have been charged with a variety of crimes involving more than 50 female recruits. In this week's testimony, Aberdeen has emerged as a terrifying place for young female trainees, who have said they did not trust that anyone in their chain of command would believe their allegations of rape against a higher-ranking soldier.

Army prosecutors, whose case relies on witness testimony and no physical evidence, ended their presentation much as they began it -- with the choked words of a trainee who alleges that Simpson raped her.

"I hated him with every ounce of energy in my whole body," said the 4-foot-11-inch private, whom the Army says the 6-foot-4-inch drill sergeant raped five times last summer. "I hated him so much."

One 20-year-old private testified about an incident last September in which she said she was having unwanted sex in her bedroom with Simpson when another sergeant knocked on her door and told Simpson "he should hurry up and finish because the Sergeant Major was in the barracks."

Other privates also testified this week that they didn't know where to turn and didn't trust their chain of command.

Simpson told the female soldiers not to talk to Sgt. Norma Morant, a drill instructor in Alpha Company, because he and two other drill sergeants didn't like her, according to testimony yesterday.

One of those other drill instructors, Staff Sgt. Glenn Clemons, also of Alpha Company, is under investigation and suspended from duty, according to an Army source.

"We were supposed to use our chain of command," testified one of the female soldiers yesterday. "I was going to go to Sgt. Clemons, but then I thought about it. He and Sgt. Simpson were friends."

Simpson's lawyer said he would continue to challenge Army investigative tactics.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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