Sergeant convicted of raping six trainees

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (AP) — A drill instructor was convicted Tuesday of raping six women trainees in the most serious case yet to come out of the sex scandal that has rocked the Army.
Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, 32, could get life in prison for his conviction on 18 of 19 rape counts.
The 6-foot-4 soldier stood at attention, unflinching, as the verdicts were read in rapid-fire succession by the head of the military jury. Simpson, who has been behind bars since his arrest in September, left the courtroom holding hands with his wife, who is stationed at an Army post in Virginia.
Prosecutors said Simpson raped the women at Aberdeen in 1995 and 1996, mostly by intimidating them with his size, his superior rank and implied threats of harm or punishment. One trainee said Simpson threatened to kill her if she told about having sex with him.
Women’s advocates — who considered the court-martial a test of how serious the Army is about sexual misconduct — said the case underscores the need for an independent investigation of how the military handles such complaints.
“The military chain of command is broken, and until that is fixed they are nothing more than accessories to the fact,” said Karen Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and vice president of the National Organization for Women.
A NAACP leader charged that the prosecution was racially motivated. Simpson is black; four of the rape victims are white.
The jury of three white men, two black men and one white woman, all of superior rank, will decide Simpson’s sentence after hearing additional testimony, beginning on Monday.
Simpson already has pleaded guilty to having consensual sex with 11 trainees, including five of the rape victims. He could get up to 32 years in prison on those charges and five sexual-harassment offenses he admitted.
“We are all satisfied that due process is continuing along. We are hoping for a speedy conclusion to all this,” said Lt. Col. Gabriel Riesco, chief of staff at Aberdeen’s Ordnance Center and School, where Simpson worked.
The judge ordered lawyers on both sides not to talk about the case before the sentencing.
Simpson is at the center of the most politically and racially charged case to emerge from a sex scandal that Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. called “the worst we’ve seen” — a scandal has exposed the complexities of integrating women into the military and renewed debate over the issue.
Since the scandal broke in November, the Army has fielded more than 1,200 sexual misconduct complaints and opened more than 300 criminal investigations at U.S. installations around the world.
Twelve soldiers were charged at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the investigation revealed a breakdown in discipline that led to regular sex between instructors and trainees.
One of Simpson’s accusers testified that he and another sergeant were rumored to be in competition over who could have sex with more trainees. Sex was so common there were even code words for it: Sergeants sleeping with trainees were “in the game.” Trainees who participated were “locked in tight.”
Defense lawyers contended the women willingly had sex with Simpson — some in hopes of getting favorable treatment — then lied to avoid prosecution for having sex with their commander or because investigators bullied them.
Defense witnesses from the same company as Simpson’s accusers said two of the women were habitual liars who had confided a desire to have sex with him. They said one of the women paraded by his office in shorts and a bikini top “to see if he could be broken,” and the other admired his “sexy bald head.”
All of the victims said they feared reporting Simpson because they felt no one would believe them. One described Simpson as a “demigod” at Aberdeen. Another said she felt like a puppet as Simpson ordered her to have sex nine times in his office, empty barrack rooms and his on-post apartment.