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Some accused in Army sex scandal are cleared

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February 20, 1997
Web posted at: 2:45 p.m. EST

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

ABERDEEN, Maryland (CNN) -- Two instructors accused in the ongoing sex scandal at an Army training facility in Maryland have been found not guilty of sexual harassment and indecent assault.

Another soldier, Sgt. Isiah Chestnut, was allowed to resign instead of facing court-martial -- a military trial -- on charges including indecent assault and asking lower-ranking female soldiers for dates.

A fourth instructor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Sgt. Nathaniel Beach, will face a noncriminal administrative hearing instead of a court-martial. A trainee, Jessica Bleckley, had accused Beach of having sex with her and threatening to kill her if she didn't keep quiet

If Beach had gone to court-martial, he could have faced life imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, loss of pay and benefits and reduction in rank. Now, the worst he could face is an order restricting him to the base for 60 days, 45 days of extra duty, loss of half his pay for two months, and reduction in rank, the Army said Wednesday.

Decision to drop charges criticized

The dropping of criminal charges against Beach came under attack by Karen Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and vice president of the National Organization for Women, who said the decision shows the Army is not serious about dealing with sexual harassment.

Last week, Bleckley said she was pressured to sign a statement that would allow criminal charges to be dropped. The Army has denied pressuring Bleckley, whose accusations started the sex scandal at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Bleckley left the Army last month.

The two soldiers found not guilty included one who was cleared of making inappropriate comments to a trainee and of having consensual sex with her the weekend after she graduated. Their names were not released because the decision was reached at an administrative hearing. Separately, a staff sergeant was found not guilty of indecent assault for trying to kiss a trainee and of making inappropriate comments, the Army said.

A fifth soldier, a staff sergeant charged with kissing a female trainee, had charges dropped when it was determined he had already been disciplined. He was sentenced previously to counseling and ordered to perform the equivalent of community service.

Courts-martial are still scheduled for Capt. Derrick Robertson and Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson who both face rape charges.

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