Army in a bind after 'victims' deny rape
March 12, 1997
From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
THE PENTAGON (CNN) -- Talk about a no-win situation.
The Army Wednesday found itself under fire for being overzealous in its probe of rape allegations at a training base, while also facing criticism for excessive tolerance of illicit sex in the ranks.
Claims by five female privates that Army investigators pressured them to accuse African American instructors of rape Wednesday drew outrage from the Congressional Black Caucus.
The five women told a news conference Tuesday that Army investigators tried to bully them into accusing superiors of rape at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Four said they refused. One said she accused a sergeant of sexual misconduct, but recanted.
"We cannot allow the Army to either cover this up, create new definitions or to pretend that this is not highly unusual," said Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat of California.
Because all of the accused are black -- and most of the accusers are white -- the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People requested and got a Pentagon meeting with the civilian head of the Army to make his pitch for an investigation of the investigators.
"We certainly want to make sure that any instances of sexual harassment or rape ... are rooted out and stamped out of our military," Rep. Harold Ford, a Tennessee Democrat, said at a caucus news conference.
"But at the same time we want to make sure that race and racism are rooted out as well," Ford added.
In the U.S. military, sex between a drill sergeant and a trainee is a crime punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Calls for independent probe
"Only an independent probe will get to the bottom of this issue," NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said.
Army Secretary Togo West insists the military justice system can investigate the charges, and that no outside oversight is needed.
In an interview with CNN, Defense Secretary William Cohen promised a "thorough investigation."
"If there is any basis for charges of discrimination and if the Army has been indulging in this kind of activity, it simply won't be tolerated. But we don't know what the facts are."
Power over trainees
Army sources strongly dispute the charge that the women were pressured to "cry rape." They said investigators may have been trying to determine if what the women considered consensual activity was -- under military law -- sexual intercourse by fear, because of the enormous power drill sergeants have over their solders.
But experts said prosecutors may have pushed too hard. "The possibilities for overreaching are substantial, and I think that should be a matter of great concern," military law analyst Eugene Fidell said on CNN's "Burden of Proof."
Pvt. Toni Moreland claims that kind of pressure prompted her to say she had voluntary sex with a sergeant, something she now says was not true.
The other four women stand by their written statements admitting to having consensual sex. But none of them ever accused anyone of rape.
The Army has charged three instructors and a captain at Aberdeen with rape and four instructors with sexual harassment on the basis of allegations by nearly 50 women in the Army including 278 who charged they were raped.
An eighth soldier, Herman Gunter, 30, Wednesday was charged with two instances of rape as well as sexual harassment, assault, adultery and obstruction of justice in cases involving three trainees.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.