Midshipman charged with assault

January 28, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

The U.S. Naval Academy has charged a male midshipman with indecent assault after he allegedly crawled into the bed of a sleeping female classmate and began caressing her, academy officials and sources said yesterday.

The woman apparently awoke early in the morning of Jan. 17 and found the uninvited male classmate in her bed in the Bancroft Hall dormitory, the academy confirmed. She was wearing a nightgown, and he was partly clothed.

He went back to his room after she resisted his attempts to kiss and hug her, according to a source close to the investigation.

An administrative charge was filed Tuesday night against the male midshipman, a senior, after an investigation into the incident by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said Cmdr. Mike John, spokesman for the academy. He declined to name the accused student.

"This incident might go unnoticed at other places, but we take this extremely seriously," Commander John said.

Even though the victim, also a senior, was not injured by the unwanted advances, she was given a routine medical examination and counseled, he said. Capt. John B. Padgett III, the commandant of midshipmen, talked to the woman and offered his support before she returned to classes Monday, Jan. 18.

An investigative hearing to determine whether the woman was fondled or molested will be held early next week. If evidence of a sexual assault is found, the midshipman will be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and subject to a court martial.

The midshipman could be expelled from the academy if found guilty of the administrative charge.

"Right now, there seems to be insufficient evidence for a [criminal] charge," Commander John said. "But I don't want to lessen at all what allegedly happened. This appears to be a serious incident."

The male midshipman apparently was not dating the female midshipman, Commander John said. He said he did not know the ages of the midshipmen, whether the accused student had been out drinking Saturday night, or any other details of the alleged assault.

This is the first time since 1989 that a midshipman has been charged with sexual assault, Commander John said. That charge, which was filed with city police by an Annapolis woman, was dropped, he said.

The incident comes only a month after two female midshipmen were pummeled with pillows during the week before the Dec. * *TC Army-Navy football game. Both women suffered bruises and one had a black eye.

Four male midshipmen were charged with assault in early January following an investigation into the attack.

Several midshipmen questioned whether the women, both sophomores, were singled out because one of them had filed a sexual harassment complaint. But academy officials said they found no evidence to support such a conclusion.

If found guilty of the assault charge, the accused midshipmen -- a senior and three sophomores -- could receive demerits, lose privileges or be dismissed from the academy.

A number of women midshipmen said yesterday that they had heard rumors about the Jan. 17 assault but were unsure exactly what had happened. Such an incident is rare at the academy, where even touching and kissing in public is a violation of the strict code of conduct, they said.

In March 1991, two midshipmen were expelled after exchanging a hug and a kiss on the cheek late at night in Bancroft Hall. Academy officials dismissed them for allegedly lying about the kiss, a breach of the honor code.

The academy came under attack in 1989, when Gwen Dreyer, a 19-year-old sophomore from Encinitas, Calif., was dragged from her dorm room and chained to a urinal during Army-Navy week.

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