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McKinney Defends Late-Night Visit

Combative under cross-examination, the Army's former top enlisted man testified at his sexual-misconduct trial Wednesday that he saw nothing improper about visiting a female aide's hotel room after midnight while wearing gym shorts.

Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney is accused of pressuring six young military women for sex, including Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster, who said she was accosted in her Hawaiian hotel room in 1996. McKinney testified that he actually went to her room to fire her for incompetence.

"You went to a female subordinate's room after midnight, in your shorts, after you had been drinking ... for a closed-door meeting to tell her it was time to move on?" Army prosecutor Lt. Col. Michael Child asked during cross-examination.

McKinney, 47, tersely replied that on business trips, hotel rooms double as offices.

"I found nothing inappropriate about that," he said.

The 29-year Army veteran conceded he made no written record of his conversation with Hoster and told nobody else that he wanted to fire her.

Defense attorneys claim McKinney's six accusers are lying for various reasons—in Hoster's case, as payback for the alleged firing.

McKinney flashed his anger several times during a four-hour cross examination that pointed up some discrepancies in his account but failed to shake him from his blanket denial.

Hoster has claimed that, when she rejected his advances, McKinney lifted her off the floor and told her, "I could take you right here, right now."

The prosecutor suggested McKinney was floundering in his job and sought a scapegoat in Hoster, then his speechwriter.

"Wasn't it a fact that you were in over your head in that assignment, not Sgt. Maj. Hoster?" Child asked.

McKinney bristled. "I don't agree with that, sir," he said.

McKinney was removed as sergeant major of the Army after Hoster made her allegations public 13 months ago.

He could be sentenced to 55-1/2 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

McKinney had no explanation for telephone records showing a two-minute call to him from Sgt. Christine Roy on Oct. 30, 1996. Roy testified that McKinney had invited her to his quarters that night. Roy said she made the call from her home to let him know she was on her way.

Roy claims McKinney forced her to have sex with him in his quarters while she was nearly eight months pregnant.

McKinney said he never spoke to or saw Roy that night.

Several of his accusers said McKinney made disparaging remarks about his wife. In an emotional testimony, McKinney haltingly described his 26-year marriage and the 1996 death of his only child in an auto accident.

"It is absolutely absurd for people to think that I have a poor marriage," McKinney said.

Wilhemina McKinney, sitting in the front row of the gallery, pulled a tissue from her pocket and dabbed away tears.

Written by Anne Gearan.
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