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Feminist News


March-21-97

Aberdeen Officer Gets Light Prison Sentence on Sex Charges

Aberdeen Proving Ground's Capt. Derrick Robertson pleaded guilty and was sentenced on March 20 to only four months in prison on charges of adultery, sodomy, conduct unbecoming an officer and failing to obey a general lawful order. Roberston admitted to having sex with a 20-year-old female private under his command who came to him seeking advice about sexual harassment and abuse she had experienced from another male officer. Robertson could have been sentenced to up to 10 and a half years in prison for those charges and was cleared of the more serious charges of rape, indecent assault, and the obstruction of justice.

Seven other Aberdeen staff members have been charged with criminal sexual offenses, three of whom face courts-martial. Two others have agreed to discharges. Robertson, the first to face a court-martial, was the highest-ranking officer accused of sexual misconduct at Aberdeen. Newspaper accounts of the trial described Robertson as "relaxed" and "smiling" during the proceedings. The plea-bargain stipulated one year in prison but suspended eight months of that sentence.

The Congressional Women's Caucus has called for prosecution of sex offenders to be the Army's top priority despite recent concerns that investigators have been overzealous. The NAACP recently criticized the investigation and held a press conference in which five white female recruits said investigators tried to coerce them into saying they were raped by black men despite the fact that they had never made such charges. Over 50 women have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse since the Aberdeen investigation opened in November, and members of the Congressional Women's Caucus have urged that the Army investigation be allowed to run its course.

Media Resources: USA Today - March 20, 1997; The Washington Post - March 21, 1997, The New York Times - March 21, 1997