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Army Sex Trial Nears Close

The case against Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney, the ArmyÂ's former top enlisted man, is fundamentally a case of abuse of power, a prosecutor said as closing arguments started Tuesday.

McKinney, 47, faces 19 charges ranging from adultery, a crime in the military, to obstruction of justice.

Â"It's not a case about race, it's not a case about gender, it's not a case about sex, although most of the charges before you concern sex,Â" said the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Michael Child.

Â"This case is about abuse of power,Â" Child said. Â"It's about the highest enlisted soldier in the Army abusing the power and responsibility that were given to him.Â"

The prosecution argument was to be followed by the defense argument, then a prosecution rebuttal. The arguments are the last step before the military jury of four officers and four enlisted men gets the case, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.

Six women say McKinney pressured them for sex.

All six returned to Fort Belvoir today and asked to sit in the courtroom for closing arguments, but the judge, Col. Ferdinand Clervi, rejected the request. Â"It's a bad idea,Â" he said.

In two days of testimony last week, McKinney denied wrongdoing. He claims the women are lying for revenge or other reasons. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 55 and 1/2 years in prison and be reduced in rank to private.

He also has said he is a victim of racial bias. His accusers are white.

Three defense witnesses testified in rebuttal Monday, taking a last swipe at Staff Sgt. Christine Fetrow and vouching for the truthfulness of several former co-workers who testified that she is a liar.

Fetrow's accusations account for 10 of the charges against McKinney. She testified that he propositioned her in 1994 and pursued her for sex for two years, including an invitation to meet him while his wife was sitting at the bedside of the couple's dying son.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Cline testified that co-workers grumbled about Fetrow's frequent absences from work last spring. Â"We knew Sergeant Fetrow was involved in something. We didn't know what it was,Â" he said.

Without the jury present, defense attorney Charles Gittins unsuccessfully argued that the judge should dismiss the charges related to Fetrow because Â"unlawful command influenceÂ" kept co-workers from sharing information about her during the investigation.

The case against McKinney, which started with sexual misconduct accusations 13 months ago, has been a source of great embarrassment for the Army. Last summer, an independent panel concluded that sexual harassment was widespread in the Army and that its leaders were to blame for letting it persist.

By Anne Gearan ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed