Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney, once the Army's top enlisted man, plans to retire and move on after he was reprimanded and demoted one rank by a jury that convicted him of obstruction of justice in a sexual misconduct case.
"We did OK," McKinney said Monday, standing by his wife, Wilhemina, after the jury sentenced him on one conviction. He was found not guilty Friday of 18 counts involving sexual harassment."Wilhemina and I are going to move on with our lives," he said. "There's a lot of things to accomplish in this world, and we got a lot of things we want to do." He plans to appeal.
McKinney, 47, is also suing his most public accuser for $1.5 million, accusing retired Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster of lying about him in interviews with newspapers and on television shows.
"The truth is my defense," Hoster said Tuesday morning on NBC's "Today." "I've always told the truth and so have the other women, so we'll prevail in the end."
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary William Cohen said he wants the Army, Navy and Air Force to toughen basic training while housing male and female recruits in separate areas to cut down on improper sexual behavior. However, he said he would not require that they undergo separate basic training.
Cohen accused the three service branches Monday of "a lack of discipline" in basic training and praised the Marines for focusing on a "transformation" from civilian to military life.
Although the Marine Corps is the only service that separates men and women during basic training, Cohen rejected the recommendation of a blue-ribbon panel that proposed such segregation in basic training for the other services. Those services had also rejected the idea.
Cohen said, however, that men and women should be housed in "separate areas, if not separate buildings." He complained that even though male and female trainees live in separate quarters or on separate floors, doors had been removed at some sites and privacy was inadequate.
"They have not had adequate supervision," Cohen told a Pentagon news conference. "There has been an attitude of a lack of discipline. And so what we want to do is maintain the separation during those first weeks of basic training to make sure their focus is on the military aspects and not the social."
Asked how increased separation might teach young men and women to work and fight together, Cohen shot back, "They don't have to sleep together."
McKinney faced a possible five years in prison and a reduction of rank to private on the obstruction of justice conviction for coaching one of his six accusers about what to tell Army investigators: "Just tell them that we talked . . . no inappropriateness at all, just that we talked," he said in a taped telephone conversation played during the six-week court-martial.
The 29-year veteran was the first black man to become sergeant major of the Army, and was forced out of the position after being charged last year. If convicted on all counts, he could have faced up to 551/2 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Now, with a lower rank of master sergeant and a reprimand, McKinney will lose some retirement pay and his reputation as a good soldier, said Lt. Col. V. Montgomery Forrester, one of his attorneys.
"His career is over," Forrester said. "He will leave the Army now without much glory, without much honor. He will leave under a cloud."
McKinney's annual base pay drops from $41,742 to $37,278. He would collect about 75 percent of that, or roughly $28,000, during retirement.
The jury of eight, including four officers - two of them women - and four enlisted men, could have opted not to punish McKinney at all, an option his lawyers requested. The government, which did not seek a dishonorable discharge, asked the jury to demote him to private and sentence him to at least six months in jail.
McKinney's sentence is subject to review and approval by Army leaders. He plans to appeal at any rate, his attorneys said.
McKinney's libel suit against Hoster - who says McKinney is lying - was served on her Monday, but filed in early February in the District of Columbia.