Expulsion review process called unfair by Mids' lawyers

March 31, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Lawyers representing midshipmen implicated in the U.S. Naval Academy's cheating scandal are questioning whether the government is willing to give their clients a fair shake.

Several of them complained yesterday that junior officers with no Naval Academy experience will be reviewing the report, expected as early as today, of the five-member panel that is to decide how many academy seniors will be recommended for expulsion.

In addition, those four Navy lieutenants, who did not graduate from the academy, will be briefed by legal advisers from the panel headed by Rear Admiral Richard C. Allen, but the defense team says it appears unlikely they will be offered the same chance.

"These people who are reviewing it are getting one side," said Lt. Cmdr. Julie Tinker, one of 14 Navy lawyers who have spent the last two months preparing to defend 96 of the 103 midshipmen implicated.

Another lawyer said it seems as if the government wants to quickly get the scandal "cleaned up" before Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, the chief of naval operations, retires on April 23.

"It just has the ring of assembly-line justice," complained one of the lawyers.

After the Allen panel reaches decisions on the cases, those recommendations will be reviewed -- and could be overturned -- by Admiral Kelso and other top Navy officials.

The defense team relayed its concerns to Navy officials yesterday.

The lawyers also said they will request that those who are recommended for expulsion receive their diplomas, because they likely will continue classes until the end of the school year.

Generally those who are expelled transfer their credits to another school.

The lieutenants are "qualified to do their job," said Cmdr. Craig Quigley, a Navy spokesman, adding that their work would be reviewed by the staffs of Admiral Kelso, Navy Secretary John Dalton, an assistant secretary of the Navy and an undersecretary of the Navy before passing it on to those senior officials.

In the largest cheating scandal in academy history, 133 seniors were implicated in cheating on a December 1992 electrical engineering exam. The remaining seniors either resigned, were found innocent or received punishment short of expulsion.

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