CBSN

McKinney Pleads Not Guilty

The Army's former top enlisted man pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of sexual misconduct against six women, and jury selection began in his court-martial.

"Sir, to all charges and specifications, not guilty," Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney told the military judge Wednesday morning, after his lawyer's effort to stall the trial failed.

Five to 12 jurors will be chosen to hear the charges.

McKinney's lawyer, Charles Gittins, had argued that a senior Army officer was gunning for him.

Col. Frankie Hoskey, as an Army legal adviser, was supposed to be neutral, Gittins argued. Instead, Hoskey improperly catered to one of McKinney's chief accusers, Gittins said.

The attorney claims that Hoskey arranged expensive, private cross-country flights and other special treatment for Sgt. Christine Fetrow, who is to be the Army's first witness.

"Col. Hoskey's interest in this case is its prosecution, not necessarily its fair result," Gittins argued at a hearing before the scheduled start of jury selection.

Hoskey testified that he made no promises and did no favors for Fetrow, but said he worked to protect her from threats and intimidation related to her accusations against McKinney. Hoskey said he believes McKinney's defense team intimidated her.

"Sgt. Fetrow, as everyone knows...is the government's most important witness," Gittins said. "Without Sgt. Fetrow, there is no court-martial."

Fetrow accounts for 10 of the 19 charges against McKinney.

Gittins wants a military judge to disqualify Hoskey's recommendation last fall that McKinney be court-martialed for charges related to six women.

McKinney, 47, is accused of crudely pressuring five enlisted women and one female officer for sex, and in some cases assaulting or threatening the women. He is charged with adultery in one case.

The case is the Army's highest-profile prosecution for sexual misconduct. McKinney was suspended as sergeant major of the Army a year ago, after a former aide accused him of lifting her off the floor and forcing a kiss on her.

McKinney, married and a 29-year Army veteran, has denied all wrongdoing.

Gittins said he intends to call about 50 witnesses, and prosecutors plan to call about the same number.

The Army kept Fetrow under wraps for months after she claimed she was threatened because of her allegations against McKinney.

Prosecutors claim McKinney pressured Fetrow for sex and then urged her to lie about it. After the Army began investigating McKinney, a tap on Fetrow's phone recorded McKinney allegedly suggesting what she should tell investigators.

"All you have to do is tell them we talked a lot," McKinney said on the tape played at a preliminary hearing. "You called the office, and we talked about career development stuff. That's all they need to know. That's it, period."

Fetrow has claimed that since coming forward, she has recived telephone threats, and her apartment was broken into and vandalized.

She was in a protection program and given a classified assignment under an assumed name after testifying against McKinney at the preliminary hearing that led to his court-martial.

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