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McKinney Defense Hints at Racism

February 27, 1998

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (AP) _ The chief accuser of the Army’s former top enlisted man once made a racist statement, saying she wanted to be assigned to a place with just white people, a defense witness testified today in Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney’s sexual misconduct court-martial.

When Staff Sgt. Christine Fetrow learned the Army might move her from California to Albuquerque, N.M., she complained and asked to be sent to Ireland instead, Chief Warrant Officer Debra Varga testified.

``She said why can’t we send her to Ireland where there are all white people,″ said Ms. Varga, who testified for the defense.

Earlier, during arguments outside the presence of the jury, Ms. Varga said that after Ms. Fetrow, who’s white, went to New Mexico, she used ethnic slurs to refer to Hispanic-Americans and said they were one reason she did not want to be there.

Defense attorney Charles Gittins argued that Ms. Varga should be allowed to testify about the anti-Hispanic remarks.

``This is some indication of racism and bias on the part of Staff Sergeant Fetrow,″ Gittins said. Gittins claims that if Ms. Fetrow holds such feelings about Hispanics, she probably is also biased against McKinney, who’s black.

But the military judge, Col. Ferdinand Clervi, barred testimony about the alleged anti-Hispanic slurs. He did allow the testimony about the remark about Ireland.

Prosecutor Lt. Col. Michael Child argued against the testimony, saying no other evidence exists that Ms. Fetrow is a racist. ``This confuses the issues and sets up an emotional thing for the jury,″ Child said.

On the stand, Ms. Varga admitted she was investigated for allegedly mishandling money on Ms. Fetrow’s behalf, but she claimed Ms. Fetrow falsely accused her of theft and that the investigation found she had done nothing wrong.

Ms. Varga’s testimony came after prosecutors suggested Thursday that McKinney may have altered a document to create an alibi for the night he allegedly forced himself on a pregnant subordinate.

McKinney’s lawyers tried to show that McKinney was not at home on the night of Oct. 30, 1996, when one of his six female accusers claims he forced her into sex in his sunroom.

Sgt. Christine Roy, nearly eight months pregnant at the time, said she arrived at McKinney’s house on the Fort Myer Army base between 8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

McKinney signed in for an oil change at a do-it-yourself auto repair shop at Fort Myer at 7:55 p.m. that night, according to a registration sheet that defense lawyers showed to the jury.

An Army prosecutor suggested McKinney later doctored the sign-in sheet, and may have had help from a Fort Myer employee who was a regular at the auto shop.

Child even suggested the ink is suspect. Cross-examining the assistant manager of the auto shop, Child said McKinney apparently used both black and blue ink to write the time he signed in.

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