Mid charged with lying Woman accused in alleged violation of honor code

Fairness questioned

She earlier said a classmate committed sexual assault

June 03, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A senior at the U.S. Naval Academy who accused a fellow classmate of sexual assault is facing expulsion for breaching the strict honor code by allegedly fibbing about why she did not attend a dinner.

Midshipman 1st Class Naomi Jackson, a 21-year-old political science major from Bedford, N.Y., was convicted four days before graduation of lying when she told her roommate she had forgotten about the dinner.

Jackson was the first of four women midshipmen to accuse Scott T. Ward, the third-highest ranking midshipman at the time, of making unwanted sexual advances and assaulting them.

The officer in charge of midshipmen ruled Friday that Jackson should be dismissed, despite appeals by supporters that she had been under considerable strain since making the assault accusation and had a good record, according to midshipmen and others familiar with her case. The decision must be reviewed and upheld by the academy superintendent and secretary of the Navy.

Her possible expulsion has raised renewed concerns among some midshipmen, recent graduates and others at the academy about whether the Annapolis institution's cherished honor system is enforced effectively and fairly.

One classmate also said the assault accusations against Ward provoked anger and questioned the motives for the actions against Jackson.

While midshipmen have been expelled in the past for fibbing about something as minor as a kiss, some of those interviewed said, others have graduated after admitting they cheated on a test. A May graduate called the charge against Jackson "frivolous" and "not what the honor concept is supposed to be about."

Jackson could not be reached for comment yesterday. Academy spokesman Noel Milan declined to discuss the case, citing confidentiality laws. However, he made clear that the honor offense is not as simple as it might appear because the dinner was a military obligation and in the military, "Lying about your whereabouts is a serious offense."

In late March, Jackson filed a complaint against Ward, 21, then a regimental leader, the third-ranking position among all midshipmen. Three other women, two seniors and a sophomore, also brought complaints. Ward remains in custody at a Navy facility in Anacostia.

Jackson's complaint that he came into her room while she was asleep and committed indecent assault was supported by a Navy investigative officer last month. But several more serious charges of nonconsensual sex involving the other women were dropped, as was a charge that he improperly approached his accusers afterward.

Ward, an economics major from Grand Rapids, Mich., denied the charges and said he had prior relationships with all the women, according to his lawyer. In the last week, the Navy investigator concluded he should not be prosecuted criminally and instead recommended the academy handle the case internally.

On May 1, Jackson, the former captain of the women's track team, and the other women went to the Navy Yard in Washington to testify at an Article 32 hearing, the military's version of a grand jury. That night, she was accused of a charge of her own.

When she returned to Annapolis, Jackson decided to study instead of attending a dinner for her military company, which is being disbanded. After studying, she came back to her room, and her roommate asked why she had not attended the company dinner. Jackson said she forgot.

Her roommate then pointed out that she had overheard a telephone conversation several hours earlier in which Jackson said she did not plan to attend the function so she could study. She accused Jackson of telling a lie and filed an honor complaint the next day.

On May 20, four days before Jackson was supposed to be commissioned as a naval officer and toss her cap at the traditional ceremony in Annapolis, she was convicted of lying by an honor board made up of midshipmen.

Jackson's name was not called out at the graduation ceremony. On Friday, she appeared before the commandant, Capt. William T.R. Bogle, with a half-dozen people who spoke on her behalf. He upheld the honor conviction and recommended that she be expelled for it, according to those familiar with the case.

As the merits of the case have been a topic of debate for several weeks, some midshipmen have said Jackson should be disciplined but not dismissed, as allowed under recent changes to the academy honor system. But others said they believe in taking a hard line if anyone violates the honor code, which insists that midshipmen "do not lie, cheat or steal."

Pub Date: 6/03/96

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