Academy rules out woman's expulsion Superintendent orders counseling for honor violation

June 29, 1996|By Tom Bowman and JoAnna Daemmrich | Tom Bowman and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A female midshipman at the center of a Naval Academy sexual-assault scandal will be disciplined instead of expelled for lying about her reasons for missing an academy dinner, though charges she fabricated her assault complaint are still being investigated.

Adm. Charles R. Larson, the academy's superintendent, decided yesterday to put Naomi Jackson, 21, of Bedford, N.Y., on two months of counseling for violating the strict honor concept that states midshipmen "do not lie, cheat or steal."

Jackson, a standout javelin thrower and captain of the women's track team, was the first of four women students to accuse a popular midshipman leader in the spring of sexual assault.

On the same day she testified against Scott T. Ward, 23, who had been the commander of half the academy's 4,000 midshipmen, Jackson was caught in a lie by her roommate when she said she had forgotten about a mandatory military dinner.

Four days before graduation on May 24, a midshipmen-run honor board convicted Jackson, and in late May, the academy's

second-in-command, Capt. William T. R. Bogle, recommended that she be dismissed from the Navy's officer school.

Her possible expulsion -- even as the case against Ward dissolved into a less severe one -- led to a public outcry, drew scrutiny from members of Congress and raised questions about the school's honor system and the difficulties women face in bringing sexual misconduct complaints.

Second chance

After meeting with Jackson on Thursday and considering the complicated circumstances of her case, the superintendent concluded she should be given a second chance, said Lt. Scott Allen, an academy spokesman.

Jackson explained that she was befuddled after an emotionally difficult day in testifying against Ward and did not mean to lie.

She will be assigned a mentor and required to complete selective readings and write a paper, Allen said. If she successfully completes the two-month program, she will graduate.

"We are obviously pleased that Admiral Larson has reversed a decision to expel Ms. Jackson," said John Gallagher, her attorney, whose family also sponsors the midshipman.

"We are concerned that the Naval Academy continues to investigate Ms. Jackson as a result of her charge of sexual assault," he said.

"We hope and expect that there will be no further disciplinary action and Ms. Jackson will graduate later this summer."

Not enough evidence

On June 6, academy officials notified Jackson that they had begun an investigation into charges involving sexual relations in the dormitory, which are prohibited, and "making false statements to a federal investigator and officials; obstruction of justice and perjury."

The academy began its inquiry after a Navy investigative officer concluded in late May that there was not enough evidence against Ward to bring him to a court-martial.

The investigative officer initially substantiated Jackson's charge of indecent assault and two other charges of unlawful entry into midshipmen's rooms. But Ward's lawyer, William B. Cummings, got the investigation reopened and introduced a statement by another woman midshipman suggesting Jackson had conspired against Ward.

L Jackson, however, never was allowed to rebut that statement.

Charges denied

"I really don't think there's a chance at all she made it up," said Ensign Alicia Chiaramonte, a May graduate who was on the track team with Jackson.

Ward has strongly denied the charges against him, and his lawyer said he was friends or had sexual relations with all his accusers.

Since the investigator did not find enough evidence to take Ward to court-martial, he now faces an administrative hearing; his worst punishment would be expulsion.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

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