Mid jailed after sex assault alleged 4 female midshipmen made complaints, academy says

April 06, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

A top midshipmen leader at the Naval Academy has been stripped of his postion and sent to a Marine jail, pending an investigation of alleged sexual assault against four female midshipmen, academy officials said yesterday.

The senior midshipman, whose name and position were not released, was taken to the Marine brig at Quantico, Va., Thursday night when he contacted the women after they made their complaints to academy officials, said Navy Lt. Scott Allen, an academy spokesman.

Lieutenant Allen said he was uncertain whether the women were threatened, only that the senior midshipmen went to see them. The midshipman was taken to Quantico "basically out of concern for the welfare of the alleged victims," he said.

"Charges haven't been brought against him yet," said Lieutenant Allen, noting that an Article 32 investigation -- the military's version of a grand jury -- would determine whether he would receive a court-martial. The Article 32 investigation could take several weeks, he said.

Three of the women were seniors and the fourth was a sophomore, said Lieutenant Allen, who would not comment on the nature of the alleged assaults. The most recent allegations of assault occurred last week, he said. "That's when the investigation began," he said. "How far back it goes, I don't know. One woman came forward, and then the others did."

One Navy source familiar with the case said the allegations were "fairly pervasive over an extended period of time."

Academy officials declined to reveal the midshipman's rank, saying only that he was in a "leadership position." One Navy source said he was on the highest echelon.

The midshipman has asked for a military lawyer and a hearing is expected to be held next week on whether he must remain at Quantico or may return to the academy.

It is highly unusual for a midshipmen leader to be removed from a position or accused of wrongdoing.

These top midshipmen serve as liaisons between the 4,000 midshipmen and superior officers. Highly scrutinized, they are selected for their grades, community service and leadership qualities.

They are interviewed by a review board that includes the top officers and the deputy commandant, Capt. Gerard Farrell.

Among those who have served in top leadership posts are Navy Secretary John H. Dalton and retired Adm. Carlisle A. H. Trost, former chief of naval operations.

The charges come as the academy is trying to rebuild its image in the wake of cheating and drug scandals, as well as previous charges of sexual harassment and assault.

In 1989, a female midshipman, Gwen M. Dreyer, was handcuffed to a urinal in a campus bathroom after a snowball fight with male colleagues.

Last year, the General Accounting Office found that sexual harassment was increasing at the three military academies, including assaults that were not punished adequately.

More than one-third of female students at the academies surveyed said they were exposed at least once a year to unwelcome physical contact such as kissing or fondling, reported the GAO, Congress' investigative arm.

At the Naval Academy, the figure increased from 50 percent in the 1990-1991 school year to 70 percent 1993-1994 school year, while at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., the increase was from 59 percent to 78 percent.

At the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the figure increased from 76 percent to 80 percent, the GAO reported.

But Naval Academy officials said the congressional poll was biased and that their own annual quality-of-life surveys show a growing acceptance of women in the last five years.

However, last week James Barry, a Naval Academy instructor, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that hypocrisy and favoritism are widespread at the academy, while pointing to "another of the academy's recurring problems: sexual harassment, and worse."

"One female officer told me she sees 10 Mids a semester who have been sexually assaulted, but of the total of 50 or 60 she has seen over the past few years only four have gone forward with their claims," he wrote.

Pub Date: 4/06/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.