Commander Never Heard Complaints

`They Mean Nothing To Me,' Officer Says Of Aberdeen Charges

April 23, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

As lawyers for Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson concluded their defense yesterday, a former commanding officer revealed that some sexual misconduct complaints never reached him -- an indication that procedures designed to protect Aberdeen Proving Ground female trainees had failed.

Capt. Scott Alexander, who in 1995 was Simpson's commanding officer, was called as a defense witness to testify that he would have known about widespread misconduct. That was meant to be the defense's final flourish before resting a case that helped put Aberdeen at the center of a militarywide search for sexual misconduct in the ranks.

But under rapid-fire cross-examination, Alexander undermined the defense's argument that the alleged victims had ample opportunity to report misconduct. That company officers didn't hear about the alleged incidents, the defense has argued, is an indication that female trainees wanted to hide consensual sexual relationships with Simpson.

Alexander said he was never told of at least four reported cases of sexual misconduct involving Simpson and two other sergeants in his company command. He appeared surprised, even frustrated, as Capt. Theresa Gallagher, an Army prosecutor, listed a series of cases reported by female soldiers in 1995 that never reached his office -- or any authority above it.

"They mean nothing to me," said Alexander, referring to the names of several female soldiers who trained in his company and complained about harassment by drill sergeants. "I've had 1,400 soldiers. I've had thousands of incidents. I do not recall. I'm sorry."

Simpson, 32, is charged with 54 criminal counts, including 19 rape charges. His is the most serious among 12 cases of Aberdeen soldiers charged with sexual misconduct so far; he could receive a life sentence in prison if convicted on a single rape count.

The six-member military jury could begin deliberations today.

Defense attorneys called eight witnesses yesterday, most of them young, female soldiers who trained at Aberdeen with some of Simpson's six alleged rape victims.

Defense witnesses had challenged the credibility of two accusers by portraying them as dishonest or sexually interested in Simpson.

Yesterday, defense lawyers tried to undermine stories told by two other accusers -- one from Wyoming, the other from Alabama.

Yesterday, Spc. Hannah Pitt testified that a soldier Simpson is accused of raping eight times in late 1995 told her that she had sex with the drill sergeant.

"She mostly talked about her husband and son and [Simpson] would just pop into the conversation," Pitt said. "It was more like a type of secret."

But Pitt acknowledged that the female trainee was frightened of the 6-foot, 4-inch Simpson and asked her four times to come with her when ordered to his office. Once, Pitt said, she did.

"Simpson looked at me and said, `What are you doing here?' " Pitt testified. "Then he told me to leave."

Simpson has admitted having sex with 11 female trainees, including five of the six women the Army says he raped. He could be sentenced to 32 years in prison for those crimes.

One specialist testified yesterday she had sex with Simpson "because I wanted to. He's kind of cocky and kind of a challenge, sir," said the 21-year-old soldier, who also admitted having sex with Sgt. 1st Class Tony Cross, then Simpson's direct supervisor in Bravo Company 143rd Ordnance Battalion.

Cross faces 13 charges involving four alleged victims.

Alexander's testimony offered a detailed view of a chain of command.

Describing himself as a "hands on" supervisor with an "ear for the soldiers," Alexander said female trainees could report sexual harassment to several members of the company's chain of command, the post chaplain who visited weekly, the Equal Opportunity officer, or to him.

He said he told trainees on their first day at Aberdeen that he had an open-door policy, which they frequently used.

Alexander's first sergeant -- a post that supervises the six drill sergeants and two senior drill sergeants in a company -- was Cross. Cross was also the company's Equal Opportunity officer, the second avenue for female recruits to follow with complaints.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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