Three soldiers arraigned in U.S. Army sex scandal
Judge bars prospective jurors from following caseDecember 6, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST
ABERDEEN, Maryland (CNN) -- A lawyer for one of three soldiers accused of involvement in the Aberdeen Proving Ground rape scandal asked at a Friday arraignment that the judge enact a gag order on Army officials who discussed the story with the media.
Capt. Derrick Robertson and Sgts. Delmar Simpson and Nathanael Beech were arraigned Friday at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Military Base in Maryland. The career soldiers are accused of participating in the Army's biggest sex abuse scandal on record. Charges were brought against all three in early November. Robertson and Simpson face rape charges and Beech was charged with adultery.
At their arraignment, Robertson's attorney Jerome Murphy asked the judge to enact a gag order on the secretary of the Army, Togo West, as well as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, saying the top officials had made their clients seem guilty before they were tried.
He said the three defendants were also treated as co- conspirators. "There was no conspiracy. There is no linking of the three," he told Military Judge Linda Webster. Although she agreed that the three cases were separate, she deferred judgment on the gag order issue.
However, she did order that prospective jurors in the case be barred from discussing it or following media reports on it.
Since the charges were filed, the U.S. Army has turned to inspecting itself, to determine how widespread the problem is. A hotline was set up to take reports of sexual harassment in the military.
And Army Secretary Togo West announced in November that a retired Army major-general would be recalled from retirement to head a military-civilian panel looking into allegations of sexual abuse in the U.S. military.
West had also accused the men of abusing their power, and ordered all soldiers to undergo sexual harassment training so they could learn the Army's "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual harassment. Lawyers for all three men said that official Army statements -- including West's -- appeared to pre-judge the cases, and made it difficult for their clients to receive a fair trial.
"There has been an orchestrated release of information by the secretary of the army (and others). This has been unprecedented in my 11 years in the military," Murphy told Judge Webster.
Following military court tradition, the three will wait until the trials have actually started to enter their pleas. The military trials were set to begin in February.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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