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Ex-Sgt. Says Army Abandoned Him

March 14, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ A year after his court-martial on sex charges ended in acquittal on all but one count, the former top enlisted man in the Army still thinks the military abandoned him in the face of bad publicity.

Gene McKinney, former sergeant major of the Army and the first black to hold that post, is appealing his conviction on the charge of obstruction of justice.

``I equate this to a battlefield,″ he said in his first extensive interview since the trial, published Sunday in The Boston Globe. ``You ask me to go out on a battlefield and perform a mission and I get wounded and get left out there.″

McKinney, 48, is retired and looking for work outside the military for the first time in more than 25 years.

In February 1997, a former aide accused McKinney of having tried to coerce her into having sex. Then five other women came forward claiming sexual harassment by McKinney.

It was a high-profile case that embarrassed the Army, coming a year after a major sex scandal at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

McKinney denied all the allegations and hinted that the charges were racially motivated _ he was black, all but one of his accusers were white.

He was acquitted on the sex charges, but was convicted of obstruction of justice for a phone call he made to one of his accusers. In the call recorded two weeks after the Army began its investigation, McKinney told a young subordinate: ``Just tell them that we talked ... No inappropriateness at all, just that we talked.″

The jury busted McKinney’s rank down to master sergeant and he requested retirement.

McKinney’s lawyer, Charles Gittins, said he thinks he can prove the case was built on untruthful testimony. As part of McKinney’s appeal, Gittins is pressing a freedom of information claim for documents he said were illegally concealed from the defense.

``In private interviews with Army prosecutors, witnesses were cross-examined and caught in lies and still sent to the witness stand,″ Gittins said. ``When Army prosecutors violate the law to obtain a conviction, they need to be held accountable. Since the Army won’t do it, I’m going to do it.″

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