March 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Army To Continue Sex Court-Martials Rejects Naacp Call For Outside Probe Into Racism Charges

Associated Press

Judicial proceedings on charges of sexual misconduct at the Aberdeen Proving Ground will go forward, Army Secretary Togo West said Wednesday. He rejected a call from the NAACP for an outside investigation into the Army’s handling of its sex harassment probe.

“I think we have oversight enough,” West told reporters after a Pentagon meeting with Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mfume met with West to discuss charges Tuesday from five white female soldiers that Army investigators had bullied them in an effort to get them to falsely claim that their supervisors had raped them.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also called for an independent investigation Wednesday into whether racism was involved in the Army investigations. Most of the men charged in the Army’s sex scandal have been black.

“The Army should not … be investigating itself in this matter,” Mfume said.

While sexual misconduct should be investigated to the full extent of the law, Mfume said, there should “not be a need to cast a wide net to round up people with false accusations.”

West said that the military “convening authority” - the general officer at Aberdeen who has the authority to call for courts martial in the cases - also has the authority to determine whether the statements used in the cases had been coerced or not. That would be done, he said.

The women’s charges of misconduct come at a critical time for the Army. Several of the military judicial proceedings are to move forward next week.

Capt. Derrick Robertson faces court martial on five charges that include rape and forcible sodomy while Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson faces court martial on nine charges, including rape and forcible sodomy.

Since the scandal broke in November, at least 50 female recruits have made official complaints of sexual abuse at Aberdeen. The Army has acted against 14 servicemen accused of rape, assault and other sex crimes.

In letters sent Wednesday to President Clinton and the House and Senate National Security Committees, members of the Congressional Black Caucus called for an independent probe - including congressional hearings - into the Army’s sexual harassment investigations.

“The investigation has been significantly complicated by recent allegations by five white female soldiers that Army investigators attempted to coerce accusations of rape against their African American drill instructors,” said the letter, addressed to Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., chairman of the House National Security Committee.

At the same time, Black Caucus members said they want every charge of sexual misconduct fully investigated and those guilty of it punished.

“It would be tragic if this didn’t go forward. There is some credible evidence that there were some abuses here. This needs to be rooted out,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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

Get stories like this in a free daily email