Officer guilty of improper sex says prosecutors too zealousMarch 20, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST (0400 GMT)
From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
THE PENTAGON (CNN) -- An Army officer who was sentenced in a military court Thursday after pleading guilty to improper consensual sex with a female trainee claimed he was the victim of false charges and overzealous prosecution.
Capt. Derrick Robertson was sentenced to three years in prison and dismissed from the service after admitting he engaged in the relationship.
The 31-year-old officer was cleared under a plea agreement of the more serious charges of rape, indecent assault and obstruction of justice. The deal stipulated he would serve only four months of a one-year sentence.
Robertson said his case demonstrates the Army has gone too far in pressing rape charges. While he admitted to adultery, he vigorously denied from the outset that he was a rapist.
He also pleaded guilty to consensual sodomy, conduct unbecoming an officer and dereliction of duty, admitting he had sex with Pvt. Theresa Shannon, 20, in his off-base home on September 14, 1996. He was her company commander at the time.
"Today, after six long months, the Army finally dropped those false charges against me," Robertson said. If he had been convicted of the more serious charges, he could have faced life imprisonment.
The company commander has the highest rank among eight staff members at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground who have been charged with criminal sex offenses. At least 50 female recruits allege they were sexually abused at Aberdeen in recent years.
Army sources say the case against the next soldier accused of rape -- a drill sergeant with multiple accusers -- is much stronger.
Promising career falters
Robertson rose from the rank of private to being company commander during his 11 years in the service. The defense described him as someone who pulled himself "up from the dirt of east Texas, then became a solider," veering off course only once when he had sex with a woman under his command.
His commanders described him as "inspirational," "simply outstanding," and "a man who brightens everyone's life," according to comments read in court.
But Capt. Theresa Gallagher, who prosecuted Robertson, said he had abused his trust by treating the recruit as "his sexual play toy."
"There is no place in the military for someone whose selfish sexual desires, his lust, comes above the needs of his country and the defense of its sons and daughters."
In court the veteran soldier admitted having sex with the young private, who had come to him for advice on how to handle an improper sexual relationship she was having with another instructor at the Army's Ordnance School in Aberdeen.
In pleading for leniency, Robertson said he was lonely and in the midst of a divorce when he slept with Shannon. She initiated the relationship when she placed his hand on her breast while they spoke alone in his office, he said.
They began kissing, and one week later Shannon accepted his invitation to come to his house at night, he said. He admitted the incident was improper, but said it was consensual.
'Violation of good order'
But the action was still a serious breech of military law, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said.
"First of all, consensual sex between an officer and an enlisted person or between a sergeant and a trainee is -- is a violation of good order and discipline," Bacon said.
However, Robertson's lawyers said Army prosecutors went overboard in prosecuting their client.
The attorneys referred to allegations made earlier this month by female privates who said they had been pressured by the Army to portray improper consensual sex as rape.
One defense lawyer, Capt. Maria McAllister-Ashley, said the Army's own investigators came to the same conclusion in Robertson's case.
Robertson's military lawyers said the Army knew there were serious questions about his rape charges, but went ahead anyway.
Robertson sobbed as he described the humiliation of being labeled a rapist by Army officials on network television. A defense lawyer, Maj. Jerome Murphy, said Robertson had already been punished by the publicity and should be given only an administrative discharge.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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