A U.S. Army weapons specialist, charged Thursday in a conspiracy to ship arms to Iran illegally, paid a $10,000 out-of-court settlement to a Fairfax County woman whom he acknowledged assaulting in a county street two years ago. In return the woman agreed to drop criminal assault charges against the officer, according to court records.
The officer, Lt. Col. Wayne Gordon Gillespie, assigned to the Army Materiel Command in Alexandria, spent six weeks at an alcoholic rehabilitation center at Fort Bliss, Tex., after the incident, according to persons familiar with the incident and with the investigation that led to his arrest.
The persons, who asked not to be identified, said that Gillespie was involved in an assault on another woman at the Frankfurt airport before the Fairfax assault. Details of that incident could not be learned yesterday.
Gillespie, 46, who is being held under $100,000 bond, is accused of inspecting two surface-to-surface missiles in Orlando, Fla., in late June that were to be among more than 1,000 missiles to be shipped to Iran in violation of export laws. He is charged with conspiracy to violate the export laws.
The Fairfax assault incident, in which Gillespie gave two black eyes and a bruised jaw to Debra Kay Cromer, was reported to military officials at the time, according to a local military official who asked not to be identified.
An Army spokesman yesterday could not say whether Gillespie, who acknowledged assaulting the woman in a statement filed in a Fairfax court, was disciplined by his commanders. "There's nothing in his records to indicate any disciplinary actions for anything," said Materiel Command spokesman Rey Aponte. He said he did not have access to Gillespie's entire service record.
Army spokesman Elaine Henrion declined to say whether Gillespie's commanders knew of the incident or disciplined him, citing privacy restrictions. For the same reasons, Henrion said she could not say whether Gillespie was treated for alcoholism at the Texas base.
One senior military official, who was aware of the Fairfax assault, criticized the Army for not disciplining Gillespie. "We protect these guys because it looks bad for the Army," he said. "I think it's just a good example of how we hide our dirt and it comes back to haunt us," he said.
Gillespie's record shows a highly intelligent officer who had traveled far and done well since his graduation from West Point in 1960. He served for more than five years in an air defense battalion in Vietnam and worked in West Germany for the Army's European Command. In 1982 he was assigned to the office of the deputy chief of staff for international programs at the Materiel Command, where he worked in discussions with NATO allies on standardizing weapons.
Gillespie speaks five languages with varying degrees of fluency, and his neighbors in Fairfax say he liked to garden. He lives on Ambassador Way south of Alexandria with his second wife, Kamlesh, a native of India, who works at the World Bank in its trade and adjustment policy division, a spokesman said.
In court Thursday, Gillespie said a college-age daughter by a first marriage and a 2-year-old daughter by his second wife live with him in Fairfax.
Debra Crone, 33, a mother of seven, said that on Oct. 1, 1983, she made a left turn onto Franconia Road in front of Gillespie's oncoming car, leaving room for him to pass. Gillespie made a U-turn and followed her in his car, forcing her to halt her van by pulling in front of it and stopping.
She said that when she got out of the car he approached her "very wide-eyed, looking deranged" and "blackened both of my eyes, tore some skin on my forehead and hit me on the right jaw."
Gillespie's trial in Fairfax County General District Court on assault and battery charges was postponed because he was "in hospital for six weeks," according to court records.
Crone said she was told by Gillespie's lawyer, Ronald Smith, that his client "was in Fort Bliss, Tex., for alcoholism. He was to be there for six weeks." Smith, who represented Gillespie, yesterday declined to comment on the case.
Crone said Gillespie did not recognize her in the courthouse. When she introduced herself, she says, he told her: "If I could take back that day I would cut off both of my arms; you just don't know what I have gone through," and he started to cry.
Crone said that she later agreed to a settlement under which Gillespie paid her $10,000 and agreed to pay all her past and future medical bills stemming from the incident. As a security for those payments, Gillespie agreed to give Crone a deed of trust on his home on Ambassador Way, according to the settlement filed in court. The assault charges were dropped.
At the time of the incident, Crone said she was singing every fourth Sunday for the Army at the chapel at Fort McNair in Washington.
Gillespie is to be sent to Orlando for a hearing next week