July 1, 1997 in Nation/World

Top Nco’s Accuser Skips Pretrial Hearing

Los Angeles Times
 

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Brenda L. Hoster, who embarrassed the Army by publicly accusing its top enlisted man of sexual harassment, is declining to testify in a pretrial hearing on the charges for fear of attacks on her reputation, according to her lawyer.

Hoster, a former aide to Army Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney, is seeking to avoid attacks from defense attorneys who want to explore an allegation that she had a homosexual encounter with another soldier during her active-duty service.

One of McKinney’s lawyers, Charles W. Gittins, denounced Hoster’s decision as ‘the worst hypocrisy I’ve ever heard,” and demanded Army Chief of Staff Dennis J. Reimer recall Hoster to active duty so she can be compelled to testify.

“Ms. Hoster had no trouble destroying … McKinney’s reputation on national TV,” Gittins said. “How come she can’t come in here and testify under oath?”

The pretrial proceeding, which began last week, is intended to determine whether the allegations against McKinney are substantial enough to merit a court martial. Military rules allow Hoster, as a civilian, to decline to appear and to have her written statements speak for her. But the Army can compel her testimony if the case reaches the court-martial stage, as many legal observers now expect.

Hoster has contended that McKinney touched her and pressured her repeatedly for sex. Three other women also have come forward with allegations, resulting in 18 preliminary charges against McKinney, a 29-year veteran.

McKinney, who has denied all the charges, has contended he has been singled out because he is black. His accusers are white.

Hoster’s lawyer, Susan Barnes, said that by allowing unfair attacks on female witnesses, the Army’s pretrial rules could intimidate other sex-crime victims and keep them from coming forward.


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