Army hearing officer suggests court-martialing sergeant major Top enlisted man is accused of sexual misconduct

September 20, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Army's top enlisted man should be court-martialed on 22 counts related to sexual misconduct, an Army hearing officer has recommended.

Sources close to the case said yesterday that Col. Robert L. Jarvis has urged in a three-page report that Army Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney be tried for indecent assault, adultery and obstruction of justice, according to people close to the case.

McKinney, one of the service's most admired figures, was accused in February of misconduct that in most of the cases involved pressuring women for sex.

Jarvis presided over a preliminary military hearing, which lasted more than eight weeks, to determine whether the accusations against McKinney were enough to warrant a court-martial.

Jarvis proposed dropping three counts suggested by prosecutors: one of assault, another of maltreatment of a subordinate and a third involving alleged obstruction of justice. But he suggested that the Army superiors who must make a final decision on the proposed court-martial add three perjury charges, based on McKinney's sworn statements during the preliminary hearing.

Jarvis' recommendations suggest that he found at least some reason to believe the accounts of each of the six current or former service women who came forward with accusations against McKinney. While Jarvis urged dropping three charges, he proposed to let stand some charges related to the accounts of each accuser.

But Jarvis did not support an Army prosecutor's urging that McKinney be charged with rape.

The prosecutor, Col. Michael Child, said in final hearing arguments that McKinney should be tried for rape because of a (( woman's testimony that McKinney forced her to have sexual intercourse against her will in his quarters at Fort Meyer, Va., last year. McKinney denied the charge and contended that he was not at home on the day the crime was to have occurred.

Experts said precedent suggests that Jarvis' superiors will probably endorse his recommendations for a court-martial.

While hearing officers' reports are sometimes ignored, unless a plea bargain or other disposition is worked out between McKinney's lawyers and the Army, the case "in all probability will go to trial," said Eugene C. Fidell, a Washington specialist in military law.

Jarvis' recommendation goes to Col. Owen C. Powell, who commands the Fort Meyer garrison where McKinney has his quarters, and then to Maj. Gen. Robert F. Foley, commander of the Washington Military District. In addition to Jarvis' report, both will receive input from their legal staffs.

Charles Gittins, McKinney's civilian lawyer, said he was "reviewing the investigative report," but had no immediate comment.

McKinney, who is black, has denied all charges against him and portrayed himself as the victim of a racist conspiracy by the Army. He has insisted that the Army allow him to retire with an honorable discharge, a move that would preserve his pension and benefits.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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