August 26, 1997 in Nation/World

Army Could Charge Sergeant With Rape Possible Punishment Could Rise From 5 Years To Death Penalty

Los Angeles Times

A prosecutor urged the Army Monday to charge its top enlisted man with rape - a charge more serious than any allegation now facing him - as a marathon pretrial hearing in the military’s highest-profile sexual misconduct case wound to a close.

In final arguments, Army prosecutor Lt. Col. Michael Child described the six servicewomen who have accused Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene C. McKinney as heroes and urged the hearing’s presiding officer to act upon the single rape charge.

McKinney’s defense team, however, ridiculed the suggestion, and in final arguments denounced the women as lying opportunists desperate to exact revenge, hide their own misconduct and gain national celebrity.

A decorated 29-year veteran, McKinney faces 22 preliminary counts on alleged crimes that include sexual assault, adultery, maltreatment of subordinates and obstruction of justice. While none of those charges carry a maximum penalty of more than five years in jail, under the military justice code rape is - in theory at least - punishable by death.

The eight-week hearing has been been riddled with explosive racial and sexual allegations, and has drawn wide attention among women, black groups, and members of Congress. Col. Robert L. Jarvis must now recommend to his superior whether there are grounds to convene a courtmartial against McKinney.

The alleged rape discussed by Child was described as an indecent assault in the list of preliminary charges, even though the accuser - a 25-year-old sergeant - described the sex as unwanted. It allegedly took place during an encounter on Oct. 30, 1996, at McKinney’s official quarters, while the accuser was 7-1/2 months pregnant with her second child.

Army prosecutors never explained during earlier stages of the hearing why they had chosen not to bring a rape charge. Most of the alleged offenses involve McKinney pressuring women for sex, sometimes touching them while he did so.

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