Reports Clears Army in Gay Soldier's Death

ByABC News

W A S H I N G T O N, July 19, 2000 -- The top officers at the Fort Campbell, Ky., base where a gay soldier was beaten to death by another soldier will not be held accountable for the death, sources said a report will conclude.

The report found troublesome anti-gay attitudes among members of the company where 21-year-old Pfc. Barry Winchell was killed, according to senior defense officials who have seen the report. But it concluded that the 101st Airborne as a whole has no unusual degree of homophobia, the officials said.

The report on D Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was prepared by the Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Michael Ackerman, and is expected for release Friday, sources told ABCNEWS. The officialsagreed to discuss the report’s conclusions on condition they not be identified.

Pvt. Calvin Glover was convicted by a military court and sentenced to life in prison for beating Winchell to death with abaseball bat last year. Winchell’s roommate, Spc. Justin R. Fisher, was sentenced to 12½ years in prison for his role in the killing.

‘It’s Been so Devastating’

Patricia Kutteles of Kansas City, Mo., the mother of Pfc. Winchell, said she had not read the report, but accused the Army of a cover-up.

“I’m just so disappointed, really, really disappointed,” Kutteles told The New York Times. “It’s been so devastating. To me, it seems as if the Pentagon brass and the Fort Campbell command are more concerned about protecting themselves than the safety of our soldiers.

“The Army should face up to what is going on instead of covering up for the command climate.”

Her Washington lawyer, Charles Butler, said the Army has evidence that Winchell’s company commander was alerted to anti-gayharassment before the killing but did not act.

Anti-Gay Slurs?

At Glover’s trial, soldiers testified that Winchell had been relentlessly taunted with anti-gay slurs in the months leading upto his slaying.

The incident renewed a national debate over the Clinton administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which critics say does not work because it has failed to protect perceived homosexuals from harassment.

Michelle Benecke, co-director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network —a leading critic of the Pentagon’s policy on gays— said Tuesday she had not seen the Army inspector general’s report but has questioned the Army’s commitment to ensuring that commanders be held accountable for anti-gay behavior on their posts.

No ‘Shred of Credibility’

Benecke said she was aware of reports that the inspector general found no fault with Fort Campbell’s commanders.

“If that is true, they Army report will not have a shred ofcredibility,” she said Tuesday. Her group, which has interviewedmany soldiers at bases across the country, including Fort Campbell,believes that harassment of soldiers perceived to be gay is a majorproblem not being addressed by commanders.

“It’s clear to everyone — except, it seems, the Army — thatanti-gay harassment is a problem,” she said.

Benecke said her group has talked to 20 soldiers at FortCampbell, and they all agreed that “anti-gay harassment andthreats are as common as the uniform.” Many soldiers there wereunwilling to express their concerns to the Army inspector general’soffice, Benecke said, out of fear they would be suspected of beinggay and therefore subjected to harassment.

ABCNEWS' Barbara Starr and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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