Memories of APG scandal haunting Illinois woman Moreland was only female who faced court-martial

November 08, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Life should be sweet for Toni Moreland.

She is weeks away from delivering her first child and is back home in Illinois with the family she loves.

But Moreland, 21, the only woman to face court-martial on charges related to the sexual misconduct at Aberdeen Proving Ground, has not broken free of the year-old scandal. She says she cannot shake grim memories of her military life, the pressure to cry rape and the burden of knowing she lied about having sex with a man she barely knows.

Now she's out of the Army, and out of a job.

"I was basically just trying to say what people wanted to hear to get out of the problem," Moreland says from her parents' home in Alton, Ill. "It is my fault that I am where I am now because I made the decision to lie, but now all I can do is tell the truth."

Moreland enlisted after graduating from Roxana High School. She had worked at a parking garage during the day and as a parking valet at night, and thought the Army would allow her to see the world.

She never got beyond Aberdeen.

Moreland and four other women made headlines in March when they accused the Army of trying to coerce false rape allegations against instructors at the Ordnance Center and School.

According to Moreland, investigators said they knew she had been raped by Sgt. Marvin Kelley. When she denied it, she was pushed to say they had consensual sex.

Investigators, she says, gave her a choice: Acknowledge sleeping with Kelley, for which he would get a "slap on the wrist," or say nothing and watch him be jailed on rape charges.

"I didn't want him to go to jail," Moreland says. "They had me in this room with a two-way mirror, and they just kept talking about [how] if I came forward, he couldn't do this to other people."

Later, after talking to a chaplain, she recanted. But investigators didn't believe her; she was charged with lying under oath and being absent without leave.

Kelley was charged with seven offenses, including adultery, but officials said none of the charges resulted from Moreland's statements. On Oct. 28, he was demoted and discharged under a plea agreement.

Army officials won't comment on Moreland's case, but privately they question whether she is telling the truth and say she is apt to change her story. For example, Moreland initially seemed to agree with local NAACP officials' claims that black drill sergeants were being targeted in the probe, and then she surprised those officials after her court-martial by saying race had nothing to do with it.

At the court-martial, prosecutors dropped the charges of making false statements, because of a technicality. In April, she was sentenced to 16 days in a Marine brig in Quantico, Va., for leaving the base to attend the remarriage ceremony of her parents.

Moreland says she found she was pregnant during her physical to enter Quantico; a soldier now stationed in Germany fathered her baby. A few days later, she received a fax saying she was out of the Army because of misconduct.

So she headed back to Alton, a town about an hour from St. Louis. She shares a three-bedroom house with her father, Joe, a laborer at a paper recycling plant; her mother, Judy; a younger sister; and an older brother.

"My family comes first," Moreland says. "The Army had already called me a liar and said I was worthless and didn't belong in the military, so of course I wanted to go home."

Moreland hopes to go back to school and get a job in welding, which she studied in high school and at Aberdeen. But today, her life is uneventful; she says she is too close to her due date to find a job.

Pub Date: 11/08/97

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