USNA Instructor Sentenced to 2 Months in Jail
A former Naval Academy instructor convicted of "indecent acts" and four other charges involving two former female midshipmen was sentenced Monday to 60-days confinement, $60,000 in lost pay, and a reprimand.
After walking out of the courtroom at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard arm-in-arm with his girlfriend, Maj. Mark A. Thompson, 43, was taken into custody by Navy personnel carrying side arms.
The court martial jury panel did not dismiss Thompson from active duty. However, he could still be discharged before he reaches 20 years of service and the corresponding eligibility for retirement benefits. Thompson will face a Marine Corps Board of Inquiry, which is an administrative separations process for officers, after his release, according to the Naval Academy.
The jury had cleared Thompson on Friday of the most serious charge of aggravated sexual assault for which he could have been sentenced to a maximum of 30 years.
Navy Cmdr. Aaron Rugh, the chief prosecutor, had argued for 18 months confinement and dismissal from the service. In calling for jail time, Rugh noted that Thompson "has not acknowledged his guilt or apologized."
Prior to the verdict at his general court martial, Thompson, who chose not to testify under oath during the trial, made an unsworn statement to the jury asking for leniency on the charges that could have brought a maximum penalty of nine years in jail.
Thompson showed no emotion and made no apologies but asked the panel to consider the impact of his imprisonment on his two children, one of whom suffers from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"I provide 80 percent of their support," said Thompson, who is divorced. "I ask that you respectfully consider that when you make your decisions." Thompson told the panel of seven Navy officers, including two women, and two Marine lieutenant colonels.
Under the sentence, the loss of pay will come in $2,500 installments each month from his monthly pay of about $7,200 for two years.
Lt. Cmdr. Angela Tang, the co-defense counsel, called on the jury to weigh the misdeeds during the course of a few weeks in 2001 against Thompson's honorable 17-year career in the Marines, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The disgrace of the conviction will follow Thompson through civilian life, Tang said. "It is of no small import to him that he is a five time felon now," Tang said, referring to the five charges of which Thompson was convicted.
Seated at the back of the courtroom for the sentencing arguments was Thompson's main accuser, a Marine second lieutenant who had testified that she was sexually assaulted by Thompson while a midshipman at the Naval Academy in April 2011.
Across the aisle and toward the front of the courtroom sat Christina Waters, Thompson's girlfriend, who had testified as an alibi witness. Waters and the lieutenant did not make eye contact.
The charges stemmed from the events of April 30, 2011, when the annual croquet match between the Academy and nearby St. John's College became the scene of heavy drinking.
Former Midshipman Sarah Stadler, who had claimed that she was having an affair with Thompson, testified that she brought the second lieutenant to Thompson's apartment after the croquet match. Both women were drunk and Thompson had sex with both of them after playing strip poker, said Stadler, now a Navy ensign.
The lieutenant said that she had been drinking heavily but hazily recalled being naked on a bed and Thompson getting on top of her. She did not report the incident until January of 2012, when she confided in her rifle team coach, Bill Kelly, who sent her to an Academy Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
The conviction in the Thompson case last Friday, which came as the Naval Academy was disclosing that three Navy football players were under investigation for sexual assault, put a harsh spotlight on the long-term issue of sexual assault and harassment, with binge drinking as a contributing factor, at all the military academies and through the military as a whole.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all the service chiefs and top enlisted personnel were expected to face questioning Tuesday on the growing incidents of sex abuse in the military at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the committee, has sponsored legislation gaining bipartisan support that would take the authority to convene courts martial and overturn verdicts away from senior commanders and give that power in sexual assault cases to trained legal counsel from the Judge Advocate General corps.
Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller will receive the record of trial and will serve as the convening authority. A spokesman for Gillibrand said the proposed legislation would also take away the power the superintendents currently have at the military academies to convene courts martial.
Last month, President Obama called Dempsey, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the service chiefs to the White House following the release of the annual Defense Department report on sex assaults in the military showing that the sex abuse in the ranks had increased in 2012. The report was accompanied by a survey which said that there were 26,000 incidents of sexual assault and harassment in 2012, compared to 19,000 in 2011.
At a later Pentagon briefing, Hagel said the White House meeting "gave the President an opportunity to ask questions directly, and get the sense of this huge problem, serious problem in our military."
Both Hagel and Dempsey also said they had to address the growing problem of alcohol abuse in the military, which they cited as a factor in the increase in sexual assaults.
"Alcohol does play a very big factor in sexual assault, not every case, but in many cases," Hagel said. "It's part of the larger context of, why is this happening."
In the court martial of Thompson, both the lieutenant and Stadler testified to going to the croquet match with a group carrying a cooler full of tequila, champagne, beer and an energy drink. They both said they had more drinks at an Annapolis restaurant before downing shots of tequila at Thompson's apartment.
Other midshipmen, testifying for the prosecution and defense in the case, also said they drank heavily at the croquet match and carried on drinking later at downtown bars.
In his recent commencement address at the Naval Academy, Obama called on the graduating class to help stamp out the "scourge" of sexual assault in the military.
|Naval Academy Women in the Military Sexual Harassment|