April 19, 1997 in Nation/World

Army Judge: Rape Doesn’t Require A ‘No’ Sergeant-Trainee Relationship Creates ‘A Unique Situation’

Washington Post
 

A military judge ruled Friday that a jury could consider rape charges against a drill sergeant even though his accuser testified that she did not resist his advances and led him to believe that she wanted to have sex.

The decision, which came as Army prosecutors rested their case and the defense began its own, outraged lawyers for Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, a former drill sergeant at the Ordnance Center and School on this northern Maryland base.

Defense attorneys wanted the judge, Col. Paul Johnston, to dismiss rape charges by four of the six women. The attorneys contended there was insufficient evidence that the soldiers feared harm if they resisted.

“Are women so weak they can’t even say no?” Frank J. Spinner, a lawyer for Simpson, shouted at the judge. “Are trainees so ignorant they can’t distinguish between a drill sergeant telling them to run up a hill or lie down on a bed?”

Simpson, on trial on 19 counts of rape and 35 other offenses, is among 12 soldiers here facing criminal charges because of alleged sexual misconduct.

At the center of the arguments Friday was a particular military definition of rape, called constructive force, which says that physical force is not required for there to be rape. It may be enough that the victim believes she could be harmed or killed if she resisted.

Johnston said in his ruling Friday the relationship between sergeant and trainee “creates a unique situation of dominance and control.”

“Whether (Simpson) used that relationship … it’s clearly a matter of fact for the panel members to decide.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email