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McKinney Is Spared a Jail Term, Sentenced to Reduction in Rank

By Bill McAllister
The Washington Post

A military jury sentenced Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney Monday to a reduction in rank and a reprimand, but spared him a jail term, after his conviction for attempting to obstruct an investigation into charges of sexual misconduct.

The sentence will allow McKinney, once the highest ranking enlisted soldier in the Army, to retire with an honorable discharge. But the decision will cost him thousands of dollars in pension benefits. Prosecutors in the case had requested at least six months in jail and a more severe reduction in benefits to the level of a private.

McKinney was cleared last week by the same jury of 18 counts of sexual misconduct stemming from accusations by six military women, but found him guilty of a single count of obstruction of justice. Leaving Fort Belvoir, where the court-martial was held, McKinney said Monday, "Let's just say we're going to move on with our lives in spite of this long, extensive investigation and we did okay."

Shortly after the sentence was announced, McKinney's civilian defense attorney, Charles W. Gittins, disclosed that McKinney had filed a $1.5 million libel suit against one of his accusers, retired Army sergeant major Brenda L. Hoster. Hoster's accusations that McKinney grabbed her in a Honolulu hotel room in 1996 triggered the investigation and cost McKinney his job as sergeant major of the Army.

"You don't get to lie on national TV Brenda Hoster needs to learn a lesson," Gittins told reporters after the jury delivered its sentencing verdict.

Gittens, who during the trial characterized McKinney's accusers as "liars, cheats and frauds," said Hoster, a military retiree, was the only one of the women McKinney could sue. Members of the military are prohibited from suing subordinates or superiors under long-standing Supreme Court rulings. He said that the suit was filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court on Feb. 5.

Although McKinney's sentence will cost him money, the precise size of his retirement pay remained in dispute.

Prosecutors claimed a 1986 law prohibits the Army from cutting McKinney's retirement pay.