General sues the Army over taped phone call Alleged affair sparkedloss of his command, letters of reprimand

February 26, 1998|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - An Army general who was relieved of command last year amid allegations of an adulterous affair has sued the Army, saying that most of the evidence against him came from an illegally intercepted telephone conversation.

Brig. Gen. Stephen N. Xenakis, former commander of a medical center at Fort Gordon, Ga., is seeking to bar any further use of the tape-recorded call and unspecified damages from the Army in the lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The call was between Xenakis and an unnamed woman with whom he was said to be involved.

The Army violated a federal statute that prohibits the use or disclosure of information obtained by an illegally intercepted phone conversation, Xenakis' lawyers argued in court papers, which say that in January 1996, an anonymous person sent officials a letter and a cassette of the conversation.

Neither Xenakis nor his attorneys would discuss the lawsuit. Col. John A. Smith, an Army spokesman, said officials would not comment on the investigation. The Army has yet to respond to the court filing.

Xenakis, 49, a psychiatrist who received his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1974 and has earned numerous civilian and military awards for his research, has repeatedly denied to Army investigators that he had a sexual relationship with the woman, a civilian nurse who was caring for his ailing wife, according to sources familiar with the case.

The Army's investigative report confirmed that"most of the evidence" was contained on the tape recording, according to Xenakis' complaint.

The Army found no evidence of adultery in its investigative report, Xenakis said in his complaint, but instead found that an"allegation of a 'perception' of an adulterous relationship was substantiated."

Xenakis, who was relieved of command in May 1997 as commander of the Eisenhower Medical Center, received two letters of reprimand for conduct unbecoming an officer, said a source close to the investigation. Details could not be determined. In December, the one-star general filed for retirement after 26 years in the Army.

The investigation of Xenakis began at a time when other senior officers were facing allegations of adultery, including Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, whose expected nomination as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was dashed when he admitted having had an extramarital affair years earlier while separated from his wife, and Maj. Gen. John E. Longhouser, who was relieved of command at Aberdeen Proving Ground for actions similar to Ralston's.

Unlike Xenakis, however, both admitted having had affairs.

"Everybody knows the perception of wrongdoing is sufficient to create a problem of career-ending proportions," said Gary D. Solis, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who was a military lawyer for 18 years and now teaches law at the U.S. Military Academy.

Solis said he doubted that Xenakis would be successful in his lawsuit in a civilian court.

"The courts have historically left military matters to the military," he said.

Moreover, in an administrative proceeding such as the one that led to the reprimands of Xenakis, the rules of evidence are not as strict as in a criminal case, Solis said.

"Since the government did not participate in the wrongdoing, [the evidence] may be properly used by the government," Solis said.

Six months after the initial investigation, the Army filed an additional 10 charges against Xenak is, according to Xenakis' court filing, which said all but one were"baseless."

That charge involved a draft of a letter Xenakis wrote to a superior requesting that his special court martial authority be reinstated after allegations of adultery were found to be false, a source familiar with the investigation said. Such special court martial authority allows an officer to take certain disciplinary measures against subordinates.

The letter was never sent and ended up in the hands of investigators, according to the source. It could not be immediately determined why Army investigators would file charges involving a letter that was never sent.

Army investigators found that there was"an intent to deceive," since Xenakis failed to mention in the draft that investigators had concluded that there was the"perception" of an adulterous relationship, the source said. As a result, Xenakis received a second letter of reprimand, the source said.

Before the investigation, Xenakis was instrumental in pushing for reforms in Tri-Care, the military's health care program, and received numerous military awards, including the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak BTC leaf clusters and the surgeon general's"A" Professional Designator for Excellence.

Pub Date: 2/26/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.