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A female midshipman said she was raped by three Naval Academy football players last year at an off-campus house in Annapolis, Md., according to a statement from the midshipman's attorney.
One of the senior football players involved in the incident was held back from graduating on May 24 with the rest of his class. He and the other two football players remain under investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS.
The Naval Academy would not name the players under investigation. Navy officials would not comment on the investigation beyond issuing a statement saying they?re examining the case.
"Naval Academy leadership is monitoring the progress of this investigation and evaluating the appropriate options for adjudication," said Cmdr. John Schofield, the Naval Academy spokesman. "It is completely inappropriate to make any other public comment on this investigation or any ongoing investigation as we risk compromising the military justice process."
The female midshipman who reported the sexual assault attended a party at an off-campus property known as the "football house" in Annapolis in April 2012, according to a statement from her lawyer, Susan Burke. Military.com will not identify the midshipman as it is Military.com's policy to not name victims, or potential victims, of sexual assault.
The midshipman woke up at the football house the next morning "with little recall of what had occurred," according to the statement. She later found out through friends and social media that three football players had "sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated," according to the statement.
The female midshipman reported the incident to NCIS, saying she was intoxicated and didn't remember much from the night. NCIS started an investigation in April 2012 that continued throughout the summer and into the fall.
Agents asked the female midshipman to wear a wiretap to collect more evidence for the investigation, Burke said of her client. The alleged victim told them she didn't feel comfortable wearing the device, Burke said.
During the investigation, one of the football players involved in the incident warned the female midshipman not to participate with NCIS, Burke said.
Investigators collected "substantial evidence, including an admission from one player and social media postings memorializing what had occurred," according to Burke's statement. However, the NCIS closed the investigation in November -- in the midst of the Navy football season -- and did not press charges.
It wasn't clear if the female midshipman's unwillingness to cooperate with investigators was the reason the Navy chose to close the case. Navy officials said the service cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
In January 2013, the female midshipman "began to recover from the trauma, and became angered at the lack of justice and retaliation in her case," according to Burke's statement.
The alleged victim and other midshipmen who attended the April 2012 party at the football house received a punishment for drinking under the Midshipman Conduct System, according to Burke. However, the three football players under investigation did not receive any punishment, Burke said.
The female midshipman approached Burke in January and asked for her help. Burke recommended she speak to NCIS, which reopened the investigation in February. The investigation remains open and agents ended up collecting evidence through wiretaps, Burke said.
With the investigation continuing, one of the senior football players was not allowed to attend graduation. All three of the football players remain at the Naval Academy, Burke said. The alleged victim also remains enrolled at the institution.
President Barack Obama was the commencement speaker at the Naval Academy's commencement ceremony. Sexual assault was one of the themes of his speech in which he challenged the new commissioned officers to protect fellow sailors from sex crimes.
"Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong," Obama said in his remarks. "That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they've got no place in the greatest military on Earth."
Even as the investigation continues, Burke said she is concerned that Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller holds the power to decide whether the military presses charges against the three Navy football players.
"The fact that it is the Superintendent himself with power to make this decision shows why Congressional reform is imperative," Burke said in the statement. "We continue to ask: why should justice in military sexual assault cases be placed in the untrained and biased hands of commanders whose own career interests may be served by covering up incidents like this one? Our Naval Academy students and all service members deserve better."
The Senate has voted to remove the prosecution of reported sexual assaults from the chain of command under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, the House of Representatives voted to keep it within the chain of command.
The House and Senate agreed that a commander should not have the power to overturn a sexual assault conviction under the convening authority provided by the UCMJ.
The Naval Academy did not make the Superintendent Miller or Navy Football Coach Ken Niumatalolo available to speak for this article because the investigation remains open.
The highest levels of Navy leadership have monitored the investigation. Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert is aware of the investigation, his main spokesman, Captain Danny Hernandez, confirmed.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have said that sexual assault is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. military and especially the service academy.
A recent Defense Department survey said that sexual assault incidents in the ranks increased in 2012 to 26,000 from 19,000 in 2010. A survey of the service academies also found an increase in sexual assault within all three academies.
Currently, a Marine Corps major is facing a court-martial for allegedly raping a female midshipman while he was a history instructor at the Naval Academy. The court-martial is underway at the Washington Navy Yard.
Marine Maj. Mark A. Thompson has been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of fraternization and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. The court martial started on May 28.
At West Point, a sergeant first class is under investigation for allegedly planting cameras in the showers and locker rooms of female cadets.
Hagel spoke at the West Point commencement. Similar to the president, he warned the newly commissioned Army officers "to be the generation of leaders that stop" the increasing problem of sexual assault.
"This scourge must be stamped out," Hagel said. "We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens. We cannot fail the Army or America. We cannot fail each other and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead."
|Naval Academy Crime in the Military Michael Hoffman|