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Army Officers Absolved in Gay Soldier's Slaying

July 19, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An Army review of the circumstances in which a gay private was beaten to death by a fellow soldier at Ft. Campbell, Ky., last year has concluded that no officers should be held responsible for the killing and that there is no general climate of homophobia at the base, officials said Tuesday.

A report by the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Michael Ackerman, found troublesome anti-gay attitudes among some members of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, in which the killing took place, according to senior defense officials who have seen the report.

But it concluded that the 101st Airborne as a whole has no unusual degree of homophobia, the officials said. The officials agreed to discuss the report's conclusions on condition they not be identified.

The report's results are expected to be made public Friday, along with the findings of a Defense Department advisory group that Defense Secretary William S. Cohen formed last spring to draft an "action plan" for each of the military services to address the problem of harassment of gays.

The panel appointed by Cohen will recommend that service members of all ranks receive more tailored forms of training on how to properly implement the Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals, in which gay service members are allowed to serve as long as they don't reveal their sexual orientation, officials said. Cohen appointed the panel after the Defense Department inspector general reported in March that harassment based on perceived homosexuality is widespread in the military.

Cohen's spokesman, Kenneth H. Bacon, declined to comment on either the Army report or the advisory panel's findings.

Patricia Kutteles of Kansas City, Mo., mother of the slain soldier, 21-year-old Pfc. Barry Winchell, said she had not read the report, "but we're appalled at what we're hearing. We're very disappointed."

Her lawyer Charles Butler said the Army has evidence that Winchell's company commander was alerted to anti-gay harassment before the killing in July 1999 but did not act.

The Army inspector general's investigation was requested by Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark, commander of the 101st Airborne at the time. Clark has since been assigned to the Pentagon, and the report concludes that he should be not be held responsible for the killing.

The report's conclusions are to be reviewed by Clark's successor, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Cody.

Pvt. Calvin Glover was convicted by a military court and sentenced to life in prison for beating Winchell to death with a baseball bat. Winchell's roommate, Spc. Justin R. Fisher, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for his role in the killing. At Glover's trial, soldiers testified that Winchell had been relentlessly taunted with anti-gay slurs in the months before his slaying.

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