Former midshipman pleads guilty in abuse of 2-year-old girl Coale could receive up to 15-year prison term at sentencing Sept. 30

August 13, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien and JoAnna Daemmrich | Dennis O'Brien and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A former midshipman at the Naval Academy admitted in court yesterday to sexually abusing the 2-year-old granddaughter of an Annapolis couple who had let him spend weekends with them during his time at the academy.

Jeremy Michael Coale pleaded guilty before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to molesting the child March 24 at the couple's Eastport home.

Coale, who had been a freshman from East Grand Rapids, Mich., stood with his head down as the plea was entered. He could receive up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 30.

He is the second former midshipman in recent months to plead guilty to child sexual abuse. Patrick Michael Chapman, 25, a one-time leader of the academy's Big Brothers & Big Sisters program, was sentenced in June to four years in prison for exposing himself and sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy in his hometown of Rockwall, Texas.

The two cases came in a year of embarrassing reports of wrongdoing by Naval Academy students, from a car-theft ring to an LSD scandal and sexual assault allegations against a top-ranked midshipman.

Coale had been arrested at age 12 in East Grand Rapids when the parents of a 4-year-old girl filed a complaint accusing him of sexual abuse, according to police records. The mother reported to local police in fall 1988 that she found him lying on top of her daughter on the bedroom floor.

However, Coale was never prosecuted in the alleged incident, and the academy did not learn of it until Annapolis police arrested him this spring. Coale did not disclose the arrest, as required, on his admission application, according to the academy.

Since coming to the academy in September 1995, Coale had spent weekends at the Eastport house of a couple volunteering in a program to give midshipmen a home away from home, said Assistant State's Attorney Laura Kiessling. On the March weekend, Kiessling said, he went into their granddaughter's bedroom about 2 a.m., disrobed her, stared at her for a short time and abused her.

The child's grandfather saw Coale leaving the room a few min- utes later. Coale told him that he had been on his way to the bathroom when he heard the child crying and decided to check on her.

The victim's parents reported the incident after the child told her mother what happened at dinner the next night.

Coale admitted to Annapolis police in an April 4 interview to having sexual contact with the child that night, according to court records. He resigned from the academy after his arrest, said Lt. Scott Allen, an academy spokesman.

The victim's family was not in court yesterday.

Coale, who turns 20 today, declined to comment as he left the courtroom, but his lawyer said that he is humiliated and "extremely sorry."

"This whole thing has been very difficult for him. It's been very difficult on his family," said Christopher J. Drewniak, his lawyer.

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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