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BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick has suspended the commander of the Massachusetts National Guard while the Army investigates allegations that he raped a subordinate in Florida nearly 30 years ago.
Patrick placed the Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter, the Guard's adjutant general, on paid leave immediately after Carter told him Thursday that the Army was investigating the rape allegation, Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan said Friday. Carter said he's cooperating with the investigation but denies the charge.
A spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command declined to say why the inquiry was launched now and what triggered the probe.
Criminal Investigation Command "takes allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously and we will investigate whenever we have credible information that an assault has occurred," spokesman Chris Grey told The Associated Press on Friday.
A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
"The allegations are very, very old and certainly any allegations like this are very concerning and we are taking it very seriously," Heffernan told reporters.
State officials haven't been told any details of the investigation, Heffernan said.
Carter said he first learned of the rape claims about two years ago during court-martial proceedings against retired Lt. Col. Mark Murray, who is now serving as the National Guard's quartermaster, in charge of distributing supplies and provisions to troops.
The 2010 court-martial was triggered by allegations that Murray had misused federal money. The panel ruled that Murray failed to perform his duties by allowing money from the federal government to earn interest that was retained and spent in violation of federal law. Murray was reprimanded, and his access to federal funds was cut off, said Lt. Col James Sahady of the Massachusetts National Guard.
A transcript of the court-martial shows that Murray sought to beat back charges against him by suggesting they were filed in retaliation for his investigation of the 1984 rape allegation against Carter.
Murray was serving as a military lawyer when he was assigned to investigate the case of a woman who was trying to rejoin the National Guard nearly two years after she was dishonorably discharged. He said in court-martial transcripts that the woman tried to explain nine absences that led to her discharge by claiming that she wanted to avoid contact with Carter after he raped her. The woman said she didn't immediately report the attack because she was scared of Carter, who was then a lieutenant.
"I was shocked by the allegation when it was made in 2010," Carter said in a statement. "I categorically denied the allegation in 2010 and continue to deny it today."
The woman now lives in Kentucky. She doesn't have a listed telephone number, and AP couldn't immediately reach her for comment Friday.
AP doesn't normally identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault.
The woman told WBZ-TV and The Boston Globe that the rape occurred after a night of drinking and dancing at a nightclub with other members of the National Guard.
The woman says she was raped after she got out of a car to walk on the beach to ease nausea that overcame her during a ride.
Nearly two years later, the woman said, she reported the rape while seeking to rejoin the National Guard.
Carter became the first black commander of the Massachusetts National Guard when he was promoted by Patrick in 2007. The 375-year-old unit is the country's oldest reserve military force.
Carter will remain on leave until the Army completes its investigation. The governor will only take any further action after getting the result of the probe, spokesman Brendan Ryan said.
The heads of the Air and Army National Guard units will command their respective services until an acting adjutant general is named, Sahady said.
The National Guard Bureau is pushing to eliminate incidents of sexual assault by increasing awareness of the problem, supporting rape victims, eliminate intimidation for those reporting sexual attacks, conducting thorough investigations and punishing those who commit sexual crimes, spokesman Rod Korba said.
Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Mark Pratt contributed to this report.