Defense Rests In McKinney Case

The defense rested Thursday in the sexual-misconduct trial of Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney after calling one final witness who portrayed the first of McKinney's accusers as a liar.

McKinney, formerly the Army's highest-ranking enlisted man, is accused of groping, crudely propositioning or threatening six military women and could get 55 1/2 years in prison if convicted at the court-martial.

The five-week case could go to the jury next week.

The defense rested after calling 71 witnesses over nine days, including McKinney himself, who during two days of testimony said that the six women are lying and suggested that some of them are seeking revenge for various slights.

The last defense witness, retired Sgt. Maj. Elizabeth McCollum, testified that she was a classmate of Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster's the first woman to accuse McKinney at an Army school. Ms. McCollum said she thought Ms. Hoster was "untruthful," but didn't explain why.

Ms. Hoster, who was McKinney's speechwriter, has said he groped her in her hotel room during a business trip to Hawaii. McKinney has suggested Ms. Hoster leveled the allegations to get even with him for firing her.

After the defense completed its case, the prosecution called several rebuttal witnesses who defended the credibility of McKinney's accusers.

Richard Roy, the husband of the woman who claims she reluctantly had sex with McKinney when she was 7@1/2 months pregnant, testified he swore loudly when he learned McKinney was on the phone for his wife.

Roy said McKinney called his home around Thanksgiving 1996 a few weeks after McKinney allegedly forced Sgt. Christine Roy into sex.

"I said, `Tell the (epithet) to stop calling my house,"' Roy testified.

Telephone records show McKinney called Ms. Roy at home 25 times. McKinney has said he was merely concerned about her welfare.

Roy, a stocky truck driver, said McKinney asked to speak to him that day.

"He said he wasn't trying to do anything with my wife," Roy said in his first public remarks about McKinney.

McKinney, 47, was the first black to serve as sergeant major of the Army, the chief advocate at the Pentagon for the enlisted ranks.

During the defense case, several witnesses cast doubt on claims by Staff Sgt. Christine Fetrow that she received death threats after accusing McKinney last year.

On Thursday, a priest who is a family friend of Ms. Fetrow testified for the prosecution that Ms. Fetrow was under guard when she visited him last Christmas in Florida. "I would say she took her security very seriously. She was very concerned," the Rev. Kevin Mullins said.

Written by Anne Gearan
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