Sergeant Gets 33 Months for Taping Female Cadets

west point campus

FORT DRUM, N.Y. - An Army sergeant who had been accused of secretly photographing and videotaping at least a dozen women at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has pleaded guilty in a court-martial, officials said Friday.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon agreed to a plea bargain Wednesday that includes a 33-month sentence, loss of pay, a reduction in rank to private and a bad-conduct discharge, according to officials at Fort Drum in northern New York.

McClendon was a combat engineer who joined the military in 1990. He was assigned in 2009 to the support staff at West Point, where he worked with cadets.

He was charged last year with dereliction of duty, mistreatment, entering a women's bathroom without notice, and taking and possessing inappropriate photos and videos of women who were naked or in various states of undress. He was then transferred to Fort Drum.

A statement released by Fort Drum said McClendon pleaded guilty to one charge including eight specifications involving indecent acts. A call seeking more information on details of McClendon's plea wasn't immediately returned Friday.

In exchange for the plea, the duration of McClendon's confinement was reduced from 5 years to 33 months.

When he was charged in May, McClendon violated four articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with some allegations dating to 2009, the military said.

The charges came amid increased concern about the handling of sexual misconduct in the military and the confidence, particularly among women serving, that justice was being done. A Pentagon report estimated that as many as 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012.

On Thursday, the Senate agreed with the Pentagon to leave the authority to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes with military commanders.

The 55-45 vote in favor of stripping commanders of that authority was short of the 60 necessary to move ahead on the legislation sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand New York. She has led a campaign to give decisions to take serious crimes to courts-martial to seasoned military trial lawyers, independent of the chain of command.

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