Army Veteran Accused of Sexual Misconduct

WASHINGTON -- An army veteran of 22 years service who recently retired has accused the U.S. Army's most senior enlisted man of having sexually assaulted and harassed her when she worked for him as a public affairs officer, army officials said Monday.

Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster sent a sworn statement to the Criminal Investigative Division Command on Monday, alleging she had been mistreated by Sergeant Major Gene McKinney, a 29-year army veteran and Legion of Merit holder.

The army released a statement on McKinney's behalf that said he "denies he ever engaged in any form of sexual misconduct or improper treatment with the retired sergeant major who made the allegations.''

Hoster's accusation comes at a sensitive time for the U.S. Army, which is trying to get a handle on the large number of sexual misconduct complaints that flooded an army hotline set up in November.

The hotline opened after it was disclosed that three drill instructors at the Aberdeen Proving Ground had been charged with sexual assault, one with multiple rapes. Since then three other trainers there have also been charged with various sex crimes.

Tuesday the army's top brass were scheduled to give the Senate Armed Services Committee a status report on efforts to wipe out sexual harassment and on the scope of the criminal investigations.

"This is very serious,'' said one army official. "And no matter what the truth, tomorrow will be a sad day for the army.''

At least 155 new criminal cases have been opened as a result of tips and accusations made to the hot line. Hoster's affidavit will be treated in a similar manner, army officials said Monday.