Expulsion of 29 Mids not enough, some say

April 02, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

One night last April, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, was jeered when he called together the midshipmen and announced the results of a cheating scandal investigation: Six of them would be recommended for expulsion.

Complaints of a whitewash soon spurred another probe, and Thursday night the admiral stood before the midshipmen again to announce that 29 are now being recommended for expulsion for their part in the scandal, 42 are being recommended for lesser punishments and 35 are exonerated.

He refused to take questions and quickly left Alumni Hall.

But charges of favoritism and justice denied once again are swirling around the Naval Academy in response to the decisions of a five-member disciplinary panel.

Many members of the academy's class of 1994 -- as well as parents, lawyers and alumni -- are wondering why fewer than one-fourth of the 134 midshipmen implicated in the academy's largest cheating scandal are being recommended for the highest penalty.

Especially when 81 of those midshipmen admitted to investigators they cheated.

"They didn't get them all," said one senior, who was not among those charged and requested anonymity. "We know there are guys who did it and got off cold again."

"People who committed multiple offenses got a lesser punishment," said Chris Rounds, 25, of Dallas, one of those recommended for expulsion. Mr. Rounds is purported to be a supplier of the purloined electrical engineering exam, a charge he denies.

Several midshipmen who were with him the night before the exam and accused of cheating were found not guilty.

In another case, Mr. Rounds said, a midshipman gave a copy of the test to his girlfriend: she was recommended for expulsion and he was exonerated.

"I think everyone should get the same punishment," he said.

"Some Mids are saying, 'Why didn't we throw all the cheaters out?'" said Lt. Cmdr. Paul J. Weishaupt. "There's still a few saying we don't want them at the academy."

In a statement, Vice Adm. Richard C. Allen, who headed the panel, said all cases "were reviewed to insure consistency and fairness."

The board considered the nature and circumstances of the offenses, "including extenuating, mitigating and aggravating circumstances," he wrote.

Among those recommended for expulsion were Jason Berger, the senior class president, and Javier Zuluaga, co-captain of the football team, who resigned last week.

In their junior years, midshipmen sign contracts stipulating that if they resign or are expelled they must serve three years as enlisted seamen or repay the federal government $80,000 for their taxpayer-financed educations.

Many of the estimated 17 football players who were implicated, including co-captain Jason Van Matre, Duncan N. Ingraham Jr., Blair Sokol, Brad Stramanak and Matthew Tate, were exonerated or received lesser punishments.

That has renewed charges that Navy leaders are trying to protect the football team. Admiral Lynch, a former Navy football captain, was admonished in the Navy inspector general's report for creating the "widely held perception" that he favored the football team.

The football players strongly disagree.

"He was fair," said Lewis B. Sims, one of the few football players recommended for expulsion. "I have a lot of respect for Admiral Lynch. He was one of the bright spots in this whole place."

"He never gave us any special treatment," said Mr. Van Matre.

Navy Secretary John Dalton, a 1964 academy graduate, ultimately will decide how many of the 29 midshipmen will be expelled and whether they will serve or pay. He also has the authority to waive any penalty.

Admiral Lynch, who is expected to complete his three-year tour this summer and be replaced by Admiral Charles R. Larson, has not been available this week, releasing only a statement.

"I am confident that this experience and our renewed emphasis on character development makes us stronger as we continue to fulfill our commitment to the nation."

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