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Sex, The Army And A Double Standard

A general allegedly coerced an officer's wife into an affair. Why did he get off so easy?

By Mark Thompson/Washington

TIME magazine

(TIME, May 4) -- The 50-year-old Army colonel will never forget the way his new boss, Major General David Hale, laid eyes on his wife, Donnamaria Carpino, that day in Turkey. She was among the guests of honor at a summer cocktail party in 1996 welcoming new arrivals to a NATO military post in Izmir. "The first time he saw her, he broke out into a sweat," says the 29-year veteran. "It was obvious that he was in heat." But the colonel says he tucked away his concerns: "I presumed he was an officer and a gentleman."

Wrong presumption. Within four months, Hale had allegedly blackmailed Carpino, a civilian, into having a sexual relationship with him. Then, when both her marriage and the affair began to break up, Hale switched allegiance and offered to testify in the divorce case that she was an unfit mother. Yet when Pentagon officials found out about his alleged manipulations, he got away clean. Instead of facing retribution, the two-star general was allowed to retire quietly. His getaway so infuriated the Army colonel and his ex-wife that they have formed a temporary alliance and are going public with their accusations against Hale. The case is likely to cause further upheaval in the Pentagon, which is still suffering the aftershocks of the sexual-misconduct cases of Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney and Air Force Lieut. Kelly Flinn.

Hale is the best evidence to date that when it comes to adultery, the Pentagon has two standards--one applies to the powerful and another to the grunts. Flinn found herself facing nearly 10 years in jail for conducting an affair with a married civilian (and lying about it); McKinney faced a court-martial for attempting to coerce six women into sex. Last March a military jury cleared him of 18 of the 19 charges. During the month-long trial, McKinney tried to say that he was the target of overly harsh prosecution and that top officers facing similar charges were dealt with gently. His argument was barred from the courtroom by the judge. In the Hale case, the claim of a double standard is being made by the alleged victim and taken directly to the public.

Pentagon brass would have had good reason to dispense quietly with Hale's case, because his alleged offenses made a mockery of the sensitive new job he had been given. The 52-year-old Hale was allowed to pack it up just four months after he became the Army's deputy inspector general. In that post, he oversaw all Army probes into personnel misconduct and was expected to help eradicate sexual abuse in the Army's ranks. "There are two systems of justice in the military, and those who practice in the military justice system are deluding themselves if they say otherwise," says Charles Gittins, the attorney for both Carpino and McKinney. "The troops in the field sure know it."

Defense Secretary William Cohen has ordered a review of the entire case. But even before it is taken up, top Pentagon civilians are seething at the Army's public relations blunder and the demoralizing impact the handling of the case could have on the troops. "You don't let someone go until the inspector general has finished the investigation," says a senior civilian overseeing Pentagon personnel matters. Says Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon personnel chief: "It was stupid for them to let him out. There's no certainty they can get him back if they decide he needs to be punished." Even a senior Army officer concedes, "If we'd known back then what we know now about the severity of the charges, we'd probably have kept him on active duty."

Army officers close to Hale's boss, Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer, have been quick to speak up for the retired general. They acknowledge that they don't know for sure what occurred between him and Carpino. But their comments, designed in part to protect Reimer, the Army's top general, betray a willingness to disparage a female accuser. They suggest it was Carpino who was the harasser, the one "stalking" Hale. The general, they say, wanted to retire quickly to avoid dragging himself and the Army through the mud. "She thought she was going to get to marry a general, so she dumped the colonel," an Army officer volunteers. "But Hale apparently didn't live up to her view of his obligation, so the hell-hath-no-fury syndrome took over."

Hale's career began with great promise, both as a soldier and as a seducer. "Intelligence, ambition, and a huge capacity for consuming alcoholic beverages, coupled with an ability to handle members of the opposite sex, have combined to make Dave one of the most respected cadets in the corps," was the assessment of West Point's 1967 yearbook, The Howitzer. He earned a Purple Heart and a Silver Star in Vietnam, and was regarded as a good and affable officer. An avid hunter, Hale insisted that his troops--and their spouses--call him Dave, even when he was wearing his uniform with the pair of stars on each shoulder.

His slide into early retirement began after Carpino arrived in Turkey with her husband and their five-year-old son Nico. The colonel--who does not want his name used because the scandal might hinder his effort to find a civilian job--was serving as the deputy to Hale, the senior U.S. officer in NATO's Allied Land Forces, Southeastern Europe command. Because Hale was divorced, Carpino, 44, was the senior Army spouse among the 150 military families in Izmir. Hale often called upon her to help him entertain, filling the traditional role of the senior officer's wife.

Carpino alleges that Hale forced her into a sexual relationship in early 1997 by telling her that her husband was involved in an adulterous affair of his own. She says Hale told her he would protect his deputy from a possible court-martial only if Carpino went to bed with him. "He controlled our employability, controlled where we lived and how we lived," Carpino says. "He controlled everything in our life." She says she felt blackmailed and complied. Most of their dozens of trysts over the next four months occurred during the day at his handsome government apartment. He would often arrive in a chauffeur-driven, armored white Mercedes limousine, she says. Carpino's marriage, already shaky, grew more so. "I'm disappointed that Donna couldn't tell me about the pressure she was getting from this guy," her former husband says.

Carpino says Hale encouraged her to divorce her husband, offered her $2,000 to help pay for a lawyer and expressed a desire to marry her. She presented her husband with divorce papers last June. But the relationship between Hale and Carpino collapsed soon thereafter, she says, when Hale admitted to her that the story of her husband's affair was a lie. Carpino said she vowed then to get even, and the two began waging war on each other. Carpino's ex-husband remembers Hale's calling him to say he would help him gain custody of his son. When the colonel explained he needed to demonstrate Carpino was an unfit mother, the general allegedly offered to testify in court to that effect.

Carpino filed a complaint about Hale's actions with Army investigators on Jan. 22. Because of Hale's rank, they turned the case over to the Pentagon's inspector general. Shortly after learning of it, Hale submitted his request to leave the military; he was honorably discharged by Reimer a week later, on Feb. 28.

His treatment was no big surprise to those familiar with the kid gloves the Army uses to handle its top officers, under a system designed to insulate them from the grilling routinely faced by their subordinates. Unlike personnel decisions for the other 485,000 people in the Army, those involving the service's 307 generals are dealt with by a separate general officer management office under Reimer's purview.

Even so, Hale should not have been let off that easily. Army regulations require that the personnel folders of soldiers under investigation be pulled from the Army's regular files and "flagged" to "guard against the accidental execution of specified favorable personnel actions." The rules say that retirement is "prohibited" until the flag is removed. But Army officers working for Reimer say Hale got no special protection. They say that because Reimer knew Hale was under investigation, Hale's file didn't need to be formally flagged. And it was within Reimer's power to issue a waiver allowing Hale to retire in spite of the investigation. "Is Reimer supposed to ask himself for a waiver?" a senior Army officer asks. There was nothing illegal about allowing Hale to retire, the officer argues. Besides, he contends, Hale can always be recalled to active duty to face punishment.

But the Army will have a much tougher time punishing Hale now that he has retired. Responding to a written inquiry from Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, Army Colonel Scott Black recently wrote that "although retired soldiers remain subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they are only prosecuted by courts-martial when extraordinary circumstances are present." And senior Pentagon officials say it will be much harder to reduce Hale's rank, and consequently his pension, even if Carpino's charges are substantiated. "Once he's retired, the burden of proof shifts from him to the Army," says Korb, the former personnel chief.

Now that Hale is gone and neither he nor his Army lawyer is willing to speak on his behalf, it is left to his Army buddies to figure out what happened. "This story is so far out of character I can't comprehend what is going on," says Major General Kenneth Simpson, the senior Army officer in Alaska, whom Hale has described as his best friend. When Simpson heard of his friend's sudden retirement, he called Hale at his Army-owned home at Fort Myer, Va., only to get a message saying the phone had been disconnected.

For his part, Carpino's ex-husband wishes he had never taken the assignment in Izmir. "I think we'd still be married if we'd never gone to Turkey and met Dave Hale," he says. "I was loyal to General Hale and to the Army, and they both abused their power." The clue to Hale's gift for easy exits may be contained in the same West Point yearbook entry that cheered his prowess with women and alcohol. It observed that Cadet Dave Hale--much like Major General Dave Hale--had "an expert ability to cover his tracks and a lot of good luck."

Sexual Misconduct: The Penalties They Paid

Sgt. Major of the Army Gene McKinney

THE CHARGE He was accused of using his position as the Army's highest-ranking enlisted man to try to coerce sexual favors from six women.

THE OUTCOME After a month-long trial, a military jury acquitted him of all sex-related charges and found him guilty on a single count of obstructing justice. He was demoted to master sergeant.

Air Force Lieut. Kelly Flinn

THE CHARGE The Air Force's first female B-52 pilot was charged with adultery for having an affair with a married man, then lying about it.

THE OUTCOME She sought an honorable discharge. The Air Force refused and instead granted her a general discharge, which prevents her from flying in the Air Force Reserve.

Air Force General Joseph Ralston

THE CHARGE While separated from his wife in 1984, he had an affair with a woman who worked at the CIA.

THE OUTCOME Ralston was named vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1996. He seemed all but assured of winning the job of chairman when word of the affair leaked, dooming his chances.

Army Major General John Longhouser

THE CHARGE A top officer at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, he had an affair with a civilian woman while separated from his wife in 1992.

THE OUTCOME A tip about his indiscretion came into a hot line the Army set up following the sex scandal at Aberdeen in 1996. He was questioned about the affair and retired in June 1997.

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: May 5, 1998

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