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Army Sex Scandal Figure Pleads Guilty

Military: Top officer accused in Aberdeen case accepts plea deal that discards rape charge. He is sentenced to 4 months and dismissed from service.

March 21, 1997|GREG E. NORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The highest-ranking Army officer charged in the Aberdeen Proving Ground sex scandal pleaded guilty Thursday to having consensual sex with a trainee and was sentenced to four months in prison and dismissed from the service.

Capt. Derrick Robertson, 31, the first officer to be court-martialed in the scandal, pleaded guilty to having sex with a female private who had gone to him to complain that she was being sexually harassed by her drill sergeant.

"I did not seek the relationship, but I did enter into it, and for that, I take full responsibility," said Robertson. "I would like to apologize to everyone involved for my poor judgment and the pain I caused."

Robertson, one of eight Aberdeen staff members accused of criminal sex offenses against some 50 female recruits, pleaded guilty to charges of adultery, consensual sodomy and conduct unbecoming an officer.

He also admitted to violating Army regulations barring supervisors from having sex with their subordinates. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Robertson had been accused of rape, indecent assault, forcible sodomy and obstruction of justice, but he pleaded to the lesser charges in an agreement with prosecutors. He was dishonorably discharged and begins his sentence next week at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

The conviction results from an encounter between a 20-year-old female trainee and Robertson, a company commander at the Ordnance Center and School at Aberdeen in northeast Maryland. The trainee approached Robertson in early September of last year with a complaint that she had been sexually harassed by her drill sergeant, Delmar Simpson, who is facing separate charges.

Robertson claimed that the trainee initiated physical contact. On Sept. 14, the trainee accepted Robertson's invitation to come to his house at night, where the two had what Robertson said he regarded as consensual sex.

The prosecutor, Capt. Theresa Gallagher, sought a sentence of two years and a fine of $5,000.

"There is no place in the military for someone whose selfish sexual desires, his lust, comes above the needs of his country and the defense of its sons and daughters," Gallagher said.

Robertson's lawyer, Maj. Jerome Murphy, said that Robertson already had been punished by the publicity surrounding the trial and should have been given only an administrative discharge.

Robertson was described by his commanders during the trial as "inspirational" and "outstanding."

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