Five female soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground Tuesday accused the Army of pressuring them to make unfounded rape allegations against drill instructors caught up in the Army’s 6-month-old sex scandal.
Investigators at the northeastern Maryland ordnance center “tried to make me say ‘rape,’ ” and I would not do it,” Pvt. Kathryn Leming, of Harrisburg, Pa., said at a news conference organized by the NAACP.
Several of the women said the Army had promised them immunity from prosecution and beneficial transfers if they cooperated - promises they claimed have not been honored.
“Something really wrong is happening,” said Pvt. Darla Hornberger, 30, a mother of three. “I told the truth in my statement; that’s not the truth they wanted to hear.”
Four of the five said they did tell the truth in the sworn allegations they ultimately made: the sex with the instructors was consensual.
Consensual sex between instructors and subordinates is a court-martial offense in the military.
A fifth soldier, Pvt. Toni Moreland, of St. Louis, last week announced she was recanting an earlier accusation of rape. As a result, she faces court martial for making false statements.
NAACP officials called for an independent investigation of the conduct of Army investigators, saying their tactics may have violated the civil rights of “the accusers and the accused.”
“We think it borders on illegality,” said Kweisi Mfume, president of the group.
Local NAACP officials have previously charged that race is an element in the Aberdeen investigations, which has so far led to formal charges against 13 soldiers, all of whom are black.
On Tuesday, NAACP officials seemed to tone down their allegations of racism, saying they had no definite proof of a racial motive, though they saw strong circumstantial evidence in the fact that none of the accused is white.
“There’s no way we could know,” said Janice E. Grant, president of the Harford County NAACP. “But we see lots of reason for suspicion.”
Ken Bacon, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said Togo West, the secretary of the Army, “will look very closely at this. But it is not his belief that the Army investigators … coerced these people into making statements.”
Also appearing at the news conference were Pvt. Kelly Wagner, 20, of Bakersfield, Calif., and Pvt. Brandi Krewson, of Dallas.
Three of the women alleged they had consensual sex with one instructor and the other two said they had relations with a second instructor.
Officials said none of the women was likely to be punished.