Female Army trainees say rape allegations false

ABERDEEN, Md. (AP) — Five women Army recruits accused investigators Tuesday of trying to coerce them into saying they were raped by superiors in a burgeoning scandal that has civil rights advocates calling for an outside investigation.
The women said they refused to make the rape allegations, and although several servicemen were charged as a result of the women’s sworn statements, none were charged with rape, an Army spokesman said.
“They pushed me and pushed me and tried to make me say rape and I wouldn’t do it because it’s not the truth,” said Kathryn Leming, 22, of Harrisburg, Pa.
Officials at Aberdeen’s ordnance training school, where the alleged sexual misconduct occurred, denied that investigators tried to coerce the women into making false statements.
“That is certainly not a technique that is used,” Lt. Gabriel Riesco said.
The NAACP, which organized the women’s news conference, called for an independent investigation into how the military has handled the Aberdeen scandal, which prompted investigations into sexual conduct at U.S. military bases worldwide.
NAACP national leader Kweisi Mfume said the Army has a special responsibility “to make sure that ethically, officers don’t cross the line and, in this case, do something that’s not only unethical but something that may be deemed to be illegal.”
“We also believe that there are possible civil rights violations on behalf of the accusers and the accused that ought to be looked at,” he said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has claimed the Army has unfairly targeted black soldiers based on complaints of white female recruits. The five women who spoke out Tuesday are all white, and the seven men charged with sexual misconduct are black.
But the Army says the alleged victims also include black women, and Riesco denied race was a factor.
“Race has never been an issue in this investigation at all. It is an investigation of sin, not skin,” he said.
Pvt. Toni Moreland, who last week became the only recruit to disavow her statement, told reporters she felt pressured into agreeing with allegations made by the military’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“I would just agree. They put it down on paper. All I did was sign it,” said Moreland, 21, of St. Louis.
Pvt. Darla Hornberger, 30, of Oklahoma, said she never told investigators she had been raped, but while being questioned, they told her the sexual misconduct she described was rape under the uniform code of military justice.
“I have a lot, a lot to lose by being here,” Hornberger said. “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.”
A retired Navy investigator said the women’s statements could cast a shadow over the validity of all the claims made since the scandal broke in November.
“Now they have a dual scandal going on. Are investigators inflating their charges? And they still have the original sexual harassment scandal,” said Tony Palm.
Army spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the issue was “whether or not there was an improper consensual sexual relationship” between women recruits and superiors. Sex between superiors and trainees is strictly prohibited.
The five women refused to say Tuesday if they had consensual sex with any instructors. An Army source, however, told The Associated Press that all five women admitted to having consensual sex with superiors in their sworn statements.
The source said two of the women said they had sex with one serviceman who has not been charged, while the other three women said they had consensual sex with one serviceman who has been charged.
Several women also said they were upset that the military has not kept promises, such as grants of immunity, made for their cooperation.
“I wanted to leave the post and get on with my life. They promised me I could do that if I cooperated with them,” said Pvt. Brandi Krewson of Dallas, who expressed frustration at being held back at Aberdeen though she finished basic training in August.
The other female soldier appearing at the news conference was Kelly Wagner, 20, Bakersfield, Calif.
The military sex scandal broke last November at Aberdeen, a base north of Baltimore. Seven drill instructors at Aberdeen have been charged with sexual harassment, rape or consensual sex with recruits. Three face courts-martial, and the others have been discharged or dealt with administratively.
About a dozen others were suspended as well and are either under investigation or have already faced administrative sanctions.
The scandal spread to other bases in the United States and overseas, and the Army set up a hot line to field complaints.