Ex-Army sergeant major gets weekend in jail for slugging incident

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Former Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney spent the weekend in jail for his disorderly conduct and reckless driving convictions stemming from an October 2010 road rage case in which he struck a passenger with his car.

An Arlington County Circuit Court Judge sentenced McKinney Friday to a year in prison on each charge, suspending all but 10 days and giving him credit for time served.

McKinney — who was scheduled to be released Sunday — also will be required to attend anger management classes and his driver’s license will be suspended for six months, his attorney, Manuel Capsalis, tells WTOP.

McKinney was convicted of driving more than 90 mph in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes of Interstate 95 after picking up two slug passengers in Occoquan on Oct. 25, 2010. The passengers asked to be let out in Crystal City.

After pulling over at a bus stop on Eads Street, McKinney drove forward in his Mercedes sedan as one of the slug passengers — who had threatened to file a police report — was typing into his smartphone. The car struck the man and caused him an apparent concussion.

Capsalis had argued in court that McKinney accidentally ran into the passenger. In an earlier hearing, a witness testified McKinney grew hostile when asked to slow down.

McKinney — the former top enlisted member of the Army from 1995 to 1997 and the first African-American to hold the post — initially was indicted for felony malicious wounding. But prosecutors agreed to re-indict him on the lesser charge of disorderly conduct, to which McKinney entered an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit to the act but acknowledged the government likely had enough evidence to convict him.

In his October 2010 plea hearing, Judge Joanne Alper told McKinney under his plea, “You will be found guilty even though you don’t admit guilt.”

McKinney’s arrest in the road rage case marked his return to the headlines after years of avoiding them. In 1998 court martial proceedings, McKinney was acquitted of sexual harassment charges after accusations by several female soldiers, but was convicted of obstruction of justice.

In the slugging incident, lawyers argued about whether the Army conviction would be revealed to a jury if the case proceeded to trial.

McKinney was demoted to the rank of master sergeant following the earlier conviction but received full retirement benefits based on his sergeant major rank. He was recently employed by a local defense contractor and was driving a company vehicle during the road rage incident.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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