Three Navy Midshipmen Accused Of Sexual Assault

The military’s sexual abuse problems have now reached the Naval Academy:

ANNAPOLIS, Md.  — The U.S. Naval Academy on Wednesday charged three football players with sexually assaulting a female midshipman at an off-campus house in Annapolis more than a year ago, a case that has brought renewed focus to how the nation’s military academies handle reports of sexual assault

The academy said in a news release that the male midshipmen are being charged with two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One involves rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. The other is for making a false official statement.The academy did not identify the three students, and it was not immediately clear if they have an attorney.Two of the students were football players this past season, but they are not on the team anymore. Another is still on the team, but he has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.”The case is still in the pre-trial phase, so any further comment on this ongoing investigation would be inappropriate,” Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said in a statement.

The alleged assault occurred in April 2012. The woman’s attorney, Susan Burke, has said the woman woke up with bruises after a night of heavy drinking and later learned from friends and social media that three football players she considered friends were claiming to have had sex with her while she was intoxicated and blacked out.

“My client and I are cautiously optimistic that justice will finally prevail in this case,” Burke said in a statement Wednesday. “Even if this case is successfully prosecuted, the larger problem remains: rape cases in the military are controlled by untrained and biased commanders whose career interests may be served by covering up incidents like this one. The Naval Academy’s handling of this case raises troubling questions about how the victim and the football players were treated. This case reflects why rape victims are fearful and skeptical of the military justice system.”

Burke has noted the academy closed an investigation into the same allegations last year without charges. Burke said the Navy agreed to reopen the investigation this year after the woman sought legal help. The new investigation involved wiretapped conversations that Burke said further substantiated her client’s account.

To be fair, some reports have indicated that the initial investigation was shut down in part because the accuser declined to cooperate with investigators in the case and that she only recently changed her mind in that regard. This quite obviously could have  an impact on the case going forward with respect to witness credibility. Whatever the reason, though, this is yet another example of the problems the military is continuing to have regarding sexual assault. One can only assume there’s much more we haven’t heard of yet.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Military Affairs, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Caj says:

    It’s of no surprise. Some males whether in uniform of not think they can get away with sexual assault as the majority of the women assaulted are too embarrassed to come forward. Sadly too often they are seen as the one’s responsible for their predicament! Shouldn’t have been in that club! Shouldn’t have been wearing that short dress! Shouldn’t have been so friendly to that guy etc etc! Although sexual assault happens on both sides the majority of the time it happens to women. Although it’s not acceptable on either side. Women are usually the ones who get a bad rap when it happens to them.

  2. Barry says:

    “To be fair, some reports have indicated that the initial investigation was shut down in part because the accuser declined to cooperate with investigators in the case and that she only recently changed her mind in that regard. ”

    In terms of peer pressure, military academies rank very high.

  3. Gustopher says:

    @Barry: and it is likely all the national attention, and the President’s condemnation of sexual assaults in the military, that has caused her to change her mind about cooperating. I can understand her unwillingness to cooperate if she didn’t think the charges would be taken seriously.

    I can only hope that the navy is actually taking these charges seriously now.

    In the culture at large, we are shifting quite rapidly from a “boys will be boys” mentality — not sure about the military yet.