Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney, the Army’s former top enlisted man, was acquitted of 18 counts of sexual misconduct by a military jury. McKinney was convicted on one count of obstructing justice in lieu of a telephone conversation in which he told an accuser to testify that no wrong-doing had taken place.
The women who testified against McKinney were “shocked” at the verdict. Plaintiff’s attorney Susan Barnes said, “Women were put on trial here. Eventually women will be able to get justice in an Army court. But they didn’t get it in here.”
Some of the women who testified will be leaving their Army posts. Sentencing for the obstruction of justice charge will be issued today. McKinney faces up to 5 years in jail, loss of rank and benefits.
Sgt. Maj. McKinney may have been acquitted for sexual misconduct, but the case is forcing military personnel to rethink their own behavior, says Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School. Retired Army Col. Harry Summers commented, “This case is a warning to us that something’s wrong …. And I think it’s a warning to everybody in the military to mind their P’s and Q’s.”
Coughlin also stated that women, who make up about 14 percent of the military, may be discouraged from bringing forth sexual misconduct charges, after the McKinney trial in which the plaintiffs’ character was routinely brought into question.
The Army shut down its sexual harassment hotline last year. The hotline, which was created after scores of women reported incidents at the Aberdeen Proving Ground training center in Maryland, received more than 8,300 calls. The hotline was discontinued in an effort to encourage military personnel to “go through the normal chain of command to lodge complaints,” said Army officials.