New Allegations Made In Aberdeen Sex Harassment Case
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 12, 1997 DoD will look at the latest allegations about the Army's handling of the sexual misconduct investigation at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., but it is the Army's responsibility to deal with it, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.
In a March 11 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People press conference, four women soldiers alleged Army investigators unsuccessfully tried to coerce them to make false statements about sexual misconduct at Aberdeen. A fifth said she succumbed to the coercion and made a false statement that she later recanted. All five said they never alleged they were raped.
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume called for an independent investigation in light of the women's allegations and concerns black drill instructors are being unfairly targeted in the case, involving mainly white women soldiers.
"I want to be very clear that the issue at Aberdeen is not race, it's sexual harassment," Bacon said. The NAACP has not filed a formal complaint against the Army, he said.
"There's an aggressive program by the Army not only to get to the bottom of what happened at Aberdeen," said Bacon, "but also to make it very clear there's a no-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the Army and to do what they can to prevent sexual harassment from recurring."
Military regulations prohibit intimate relations between trainers and trainees, Bacon said. "It is wrong. It is improper. It is punishable," he said. Such relations are "fraught with misuse of power, with misuse of influence, or the possibilities of misuse of power or influence."
Army officials have launched a five-part program to combat sexual harassment, Bacon said. The Army inspector general is investigating sexual harassment at training bases. Proven violators are being prosecuted. A senior review panel is evaluating Army sexual harassment policies. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer directed a comprehensive training program for all active duty units. An Army hot line has received 7,524 calls. Army officials referred 1,192 calls to CID.
Secretary of the Army Togo West said he did not see the press conference telecast, but met later with Mfume.
"These allegations come up in the context of ongoing military justice proceedings," West said. "That is where they should be dealt with."
Once the investigation began in November, Army leaders wanted it to proceed with sensitivity to the needs of the alleged victims, concern for the rights of the accused and a desire to assure the integrity of the investigation and other proceedings, West said.
"It is important to us to make sure every American soldier and every American has confidence in the fairness of what we are undertaking," he said. "Our purpose is to ensure that whatever happens in these proceedings happens in accordance with procedure and a protection of the rights of both the accused and all those who may be witnesses."
During the NAACP news conference, the five women said they felt pressured by CID investigators. Pvt. Toni Moreland, 21, of St. Louis, Mo., said she was pressured to say she had consensual sex with a drill sergeant. Ten days after making her statement, Moreland recanted after seeking an Army chaplain's counsel.
"The statement I made was just CID asking questions," Moreland said. "I would just agree. They put it down on paper. All I did was sign it. I never made up any stories. CID had what they wanted in their heads and that's what they got on paper."
Moreland is the only one of the five women facing charges in the case. She is charged with being absent without leave, disobeying a direct order, and making a false statement under oath, DoD officials said.
"I have a lot to lose by being here," said Pvt. Darla Hornberger, 30, of Oklahoma. "I have a family, I have children and I could just keep my mouth shut and this would all go over, but something really wrong has happened."
Hornberger said she never claimed she was raped. "I didn't lie in my statement," she said. "I told the truth, but that's not what they wanted to hear. After giving my statement to them, they told me that under the Uniform Code of Military Justice it was considered rape."
CID investigators interviewed more than 900 women soldiers who trained at Aberdeen since January 1995, CID officials said. A total of eight drill sergeants have been charged.