Mid will face discipline hearing Superintendent rules insufficient evidence for a court-martial

June 05, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

A former top midshipmen leader accused of sexually assaulting four women midshipmen at the Naval Academy will face a disciplinary hearing rather than a court-martial, the academy's superintendent decided yesterday.

Adm. Charles R. Larson found a lack of "sufficient evidence" to support a conviction at a court-martial, referring the case involving Midshipman 1st Class Scott T. Ward to a conduct hearing, said Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, an academy spokesman.

Larson's decision reflects a report completed last week by a Navy investigator, who found that the charges did not merit criminal action and should be handled administratively.

By facing a conduct hearing rather than a court-martial, the top penalty Ward faces is dismissal from the academy rather than jail time.

"We had sort of been expecting this. It's good news," said William B. Cummings, Ward's attorney. "We're still hoping he'll graduate and be out in the fleet."

A former regimental commander, or third ranking midshipmen, Ward, 21, of Grand Rapids, Mich., has been in custody since he was arrested April 4 at the academy. He was removed in handcuffs to the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., after he approached some of his accusers.

Cummings also said he was told yesterday by Lt. Cmdr. Patrick McCarthy, the lawyer for the commandant of midshipmen, that the academy will investigate whether "ulterior motives" were involved in the charges against Ward, who Cummings said had personal relationships with all four women -- three seniors and a sophomore.

"Evidence came out during the hearing that reflected on the credibility and motivation of some of the witnesses," Cummings said. "I think the academy wants to explore that."

Jurkowsky declined to comment on any further investigation in the case.

The case against Ward took an unusual twist last week when the first of his accusers, Midshipman 1st Class Naomi Jackson, 21, of Bedford, N.Y., was found guilty by a midshipmen honor panel of lying about missing a dinner. She was recommended for expulsion by Capt. William T. R. Bogle, the commandant of midshipmen, and the case is now before Larson.

Jackson was found in violation of the academy's strict honor concept that prohibits lying, cheating or stealing. On May 1, the day she and the other women testified against Ward during a hearing at the Washington Navy Yard, Jackson was overheard by her roommate telling another midshipman that she was planning to study rather than attend a dinner for her military company that night.

Jackson told the roommate several hours later that she didn't attend the dinner because she forgot about it. The roommate then reminded her of the conversation and filed an honor complaint.

Jackson could not be reached for comment.

Conduct cases are heard by Bogle, who will evaluate the case and determine the punishment. Larson has the final say on any TC punishment. Jurkowsky was uncertain when the case would be heard.

Early last month, the Navy officer investigating the case, Lt. Cmdr. L. Lynn Jowers, found probable cause to support one count of indecent assault and two counts of unlawful entry into midshipmen's rooms. A final count involved approaching a witness, allegedly telling her to say she consented to his behavior.

However, she found insufficient evidence to support more serious charges of nonconsensual sex involving other women midshipmen.

But this Article 32 hearing -- the military's equivalent of a grand jury hearing -- was reopened soon after, when Cummings said he had new evidence involving the motivation of a witness. Jowers finally recommended administrative action rather than criminal prosecution.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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