Sergeant pleads guilty at Aberdeen Drill instructor admits having sex with female students; Rape charges remain; He says all acts were consensual at training post


Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson yesterday became the first Aberdeen Proving Ground drill instructor to publicly admit having sex with female students, pleading guilty to 16 counts of violating Army rules that prohibit relationships between soldiers of different ranks.

Simpson, 32, denied raping any of the women, but his testimony portrayed Aberdeen's Ordnance Center and School as a hormone-rich college dormitory than an elite Army training post.

In often-lurid detail, he recounted having sex with recruits on his office sofa, in his on-post quarters and at an Andrews Air Force Base hotel. He also admitted pursuing five female soldiers by inviting them to Baltimore hotels, hugging them in his office, and asking them to report in workout clothes without wearing underwear.

Describing one incident, he told Col. Paul Johnston, the military judge: "She came into my office, said what she wanted to do and everything, and we had small talk for five or 10 minutes. Then we had sexual intercourse."

Simpson, a 13-year Army veteran, could receive a maximum jail sentence of 32 years for the crimes he admitted to yesterday -- crimes that helped trigger a military-wide investigation of sexual misconduct. He will stand trial later this week on 78 remaining counts, including 21 rape charges that could put him behind bars for life.

He pleaded innocent to the rape charges yesterday.

"Sergeant Simpson is not afraid of the truth," said Frank J. Spinner, his civilian attorney. "He pleaded guilty to what he did and he's ready to take responsibility for his actions."

Capt. Edward W. Brady, Simpson's military lawyer, explained the plea by saying "you pick and choose your battles. When there is no contest why fight it?"

The plea did not result from any agreement between Simpson and Army prosecutors to drop charges or to recommend a lighter sentence. But it could have strategic value for a defense team facing the biggest case filed against an Aberdeen soldier to date.

This morning, Johnston, Army prosecutors and Simpson's lawyers will begin selecting what will likely be a 10-member military jury for his court-martial. At Simpson's request, the panel will be informed that he admitted to having consensual sex with 11 female trainees at Aberdeen -- seven were in classes he taught.

The Army has charged Simpson with raping five of those trainees, setting the stage for a courtroom debate over whether he used rank, force or threat to coerce the recruits into having sex. Three other female recruits also have accused him of rape.

Since November, 11 male soldiers have been charged based on allegations by 56 female recruits once assigned to the Ordnance Center and School.

One soldier, Capt. Derrick Robertson, admitted having sex with a female recruit. But Robertson, who was once Simpson's company commander, was not a front-line instructor charged with teaching classes on advanced infantry training.

"The reason there are rules is to preclude these types of relationships from developing," said Col. John Smith, an Army spokesman. "It cuts the guesswork out. Trainers shall not mess around with trainees."

In hours of testimony alternating between vague and graphic, Simpson described having sex and pursuing recruits from February 1995 to early September 1996. He admitted to propositioning a female student a month after arriving at the post in January 1995 and was having sex with trainees less than two months before Army leaders publicly detailed the Aberdeen sex scandal late last year.

During a two-month period last year, Simpson was having sex with four recruits who were members of the same class. Most of the time, he said, he had sex with the women in his third-floor office, two stories above barracks where female soldiers slept.

But he often claimed he couldn't remember who started the conversation, where the sex occurred, or if he wore a condom. Simpson also said that, on at least two occasions, the women arrived in his office and asked him to have sex.

"She would come to my office and we would engage in conversation and one thing would just lead to another, sir," Simpson told Johnston.

But Simpson was always careful -- frequently consulting his attorneys before answering Johnston's questions -- about characterizing the sex as consensual. He said it sometimes resulted from "a mutual feeling," never from a command he issued.

Army officials have said sex between soldiers of different ranks, even if no physical force is involved, should be considered rape.

"Was there ever an occasion when you ordered her to your office to have sex with you?" Johnston asked.

"Ordered, sir? No, sir," Simpson answered.

"Did you ever request her to come to your office to have sex?"

"Yes, sir," Simpson said. "I said whenever you had time."

After the court hearing, Simpson's attorneys said the testimony revealed an Army post where military order had collapsed.

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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