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Former top sergeant denies sex charges

The Army's former top enlisted man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of sexual misconduct against six women, and jury selection began in his court-martial.

"Sir, to all charges and specifications, not guilty," Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney told the military judge Wednesday morning, after his lawyer's effort to stall the trial failed.Five to 12 jurors will be chosen to hear charges that McKinney crudely pressured the women to have sex with him and in some cases assaulted and threatened them.

McKinney, 47, could be sentenced to more than 55 1/2 years in a military prison if he is convicted in the court-martial that expected to last a month or more at the Army base about 20 miles south of Washington.

Earlier in the morning, McKinney's lawyer asked the military judge in the case to dismiss an Army legal adviser's recommendation that McKinney be court-martialed on grounds that the adviser was biased.

Had the judge, Col. Ferdinand Clervi, approved the motion by attorney Charles Gittins, the Army would have been forced to repeat several months of pretrial proceedings.

Gittins had claimed that legal adviser Col. Frankie Hoskey, who was supposed to be neutral, instead catered improperly to one of McKinney's chief accusers.

Hoskey arranged expensive, private cross-country flights and other special treatment for Sgt. Christine Fetrow, Gittins said during arguments before jury selection began. Fetrow is scheduled to be the Army's first witness.

The Army kept Fetrow under wraps for months after she claimed she was threatened because of her allegations against McKinney.

At the hearing before jury selection, Hoskey testified Wednesday that he made no promises and did no favors for Fetrow but said he worked to protect her from threats and intimidation related to her accusations against McKinney. Hoskey said he believes McKinney's defense team intimidated her.