The 50-year-old Army colonel will never forget the way his new boss, Major General David Hale, laid eyes on his wife, Donnamaria Carpino, that day in Turkey. She was among the guests of honor at a summer cocktail party in 1996 welcoming new arrivals to a NATO military post in Izmir. "The first time he saw her, he broke out into a sweat," says the 29-year veteran. "It was obvious that he was in heat." But the colonel says he tucked away his concerns: "I presumed he was an officer and a gentleman."
Wrong presumption. Within four months, Hale had allegedly blackmailed Carpino, a civilian, into having a sexual relationship with him. Then, when both her marriage and the affair began to break up, Hale switched allegiance and offered to testify in the divorce case that she was an unfit mother. Yet when Pentagon officials found out about his alleged manipulations, he got away clean. Instead of facing retribution, the two-star general was allowed to retire quietly. His getaway so infuriated the Army colonel and his ex-wife that they have formed a temporary alliance and are going public with their accusations against Hale. The case is likely to cause further upheaval in the Pentagon, which is still suffering the aftershocks of the sexual-misconduct cases of Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney and Air Force Lieut. Kelly Flinn.
Hale is the best evidence to date that when it comes to adultery, the Pentagon has two standards--one applies to the powerful and another to the grunts. Flinn found herself facing nearly 10 years in jail for conducting an affair with a married civilian (and lying about it); McKinney faced a court-martial for attempting to coerce six women into sex. Last March a military jury cleared him of 18 of the 19 charges. During the month-long trial, McKinney tried to say that he was the target of overly harsh prosecution and that top officers facing similar charges were dealt with gently. His argument was barred from the courtroom by the judge. In the Hale case, the claim of a double standard is being made by the alleged victim and taken directly to the public.
Pentagon brass would have had good reason to dispense quietly with Hale's case, because his alleged offenses made a mockery of the sensitive new job he had been given. The 52-year-old Hale was allowed to pack it up just four months after he became the Army's deputy inspector general. In that post, he oversaw all Army probes into personnel misconduct and was expected to help eradicate sexual abuse in the Army's ranks. "There are two systems of justice in the military, and those who practice in the military justice system are deluding themselves if they say otherwise," says Charles Gittins, the attorney for both Carpino and McKinney. "The troops in the field sure know it."