Court Martial for Academy Instructor in Rape Case

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The Naval Academy's Superintendent has referred to a general court martial the case of a former Marine Corps instructor who is charged with sexually assaulting one female Midshipman and having consensual sex with another.

Marine Maj. Mark A. Thompson, who has been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of fraternization, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, could now face up to 30 years in prison if convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, USNA's Superintendent, did not set a date for the court martial following a two-part Article 32 hearing -- similar to a civilian grand jury --  that took place on Dec. 19 and Jan. 15.

Former Midshipman Sarah Stadler testified on Jan. 15 that she and the alleged victim, also a former midshipman, had engaged in heavy drinking at an annual croquet match in 2011 between the Naval Academy and nearby St. John's College before playing strip poker and having sex with Thompson at his Annapolis apartment.

Thompson served as the rifle team's officer representative at the time. Stadler, now a gunnery officer aboard the USS Howard, was the rifle team manager. The female midshipman who went to Thompson's apartment with Stadler that night was a rifle team member.

The alleged victim reported to Naval Criminal Investigative Service that Thompson raped her. (Military.com's  policy is not to name sexual assault victims.)

Stadler, now an ensign serving as a gunnery officer aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Howard, testified that she and the second Midshipman continued drinking tequila with Thompson after the match at his apartment. Stadler described herself and the second woman as being "drunk.”

Stadler said she had sex with Thompson, continuing a relationship they had begun three months earlier. Thompson also had sex with the second woman, Stadler testified.

"These charges are accusations, and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Jennifer M. Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Naval Academy Erickson in an emailed statement. "The Naval Academy takes all reports of sexual assault seriously and is uniformly committed to taking positive and proactive steps to investigate every incident.c

The case against Thompson comes to light as the military as a whole attempts to combat rising instances of sexual assault and misconduct. Military leaders have encouraged servicemembers to report abuses.

A Defense Department report in December found that sexual assaults at the military academies have spiked 23 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year. The Naval Academy was the only service academy to see reported sexual assaults drop, although the report also found that 225 midshipmen said they did not report incidents of unwanted sexual contact.

In statements accompanying the report, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said "we have a persistent problem” with sex offenses at the academies.

"The young men and women enrolled at the service academies must be able to learn and develop as future leaders in an environment free from sexual assault and sexual harassment," Panetta said. "They must feel secure enough to report without fear of retribution, and offenders must be held appropriately accountable."

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert traveled to the Naval Academy after the Defense Department issued the report to address the brigade. Maybus said the Navy has failed to protect midshipman and must do better. However, he is pleased with some of the changes made at the Naval Academy.

"As a team, the Naval Academy sees these results as a call to action, and is uniformly committed to taking positive and proactive steps in the fight against the egregious acts of sexual assault and harassment,” Vice Adm. Miller said in a statement issued in December.

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