Mid accused of sex assaults Two female juniors say senior entered rooms, attacked them

November 01, 1997|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A male midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy is under criminal investigation after two female midshipmen accused him entering their dormitory rooms late at night and sexually assaulting them.

The alleged assaults, which apparently do not include rape, occurred on successive nights over the Oct. 18-19 weekend in rooms across the hall from each other. The women, both juniors, brought strikingly similar complaints to Navy investigators. Each said that the man, a senior in their military company, slipped into her bed while she was asleep and assaulted her, academy sources said.

A third woman, a senior, has alleged that the midshipman also came into her room uninvited late at night but did not touch her, the sources said.

The accused midshipman has been transferred to another military company and moved to a different section of Bancroft Hall, the huge dormitory housing all 3,386 male and 623 female students, pending the outcome of the investigation, academy officials said.

"We've got to see what the facts are," said Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, the academy's spokesman, "but we're not going to let this thing drag on. This investigation is on a very accelerated track."

The case is the latest of several at the Navy's premier officers' school in which women have complained about unwanted nighttime visits by male classmates.

Last year, the Naval Academy reversed its long-standing policy requiring that all dormitory rooms remain unlocked in the wake of a highly publicized sexual assault case.

The tradition of unlocked doors came under heavy criticism after four female midshipmen alleged that the academy's third-ranking midshipman, senior Scott T. Ward, had surprised them in their rooms and committed offenses ranging from

fondling to rape. Ward denied the charges and avoided criminal prosecution but was expelled for sexual misconduct.

In 1995, another midshipman, sophomore Stephen J. Ciccarelli III, was expelled after three women accused him of entering their rooms while intoxicated and assaulting them.

Both cases divided midshipmen and pushed to the forefront lingering tensions over the academy's male-dominated culture. Both also called into question the academy's commitment in pursuing sexual assault claims.

The tables were turned against two of Ward's accusers; one nearly was expelled for lying to her roommate, and the other resigned after being warned she would face a misconduct charge. The women who testified against Ciccarelli quit the academy after a year of taunts and being shunned by male classmates.

Despite the policy change allowing midshipmen to lock their doors, few do. Men and women are not segregated by wing or floor in Bancroft Hall, and they constantly visit each other to study, chat or spark a romance. Sex, however, is not allowed in the dormitory.

Eighty-eight percent of women and 97 percent of men agreed in a recent poll of midshipmen that having unlocked doors is "not a problem." The survey of student attitudes, the second since the academy was roiled in spring 1996 by a rash of student wrongdoing, also found fewer midshipmen believe sexual misconduct is a problem than the year before.

The three women who have accused the senior of coming uninvited into their rooms apparently did not have their doors locked. The academy would not provide details about the alleged assaults.

If charged with assault, the senior would be tried by the Navy. He also could face lesser charges of misconduct, punishable by discipline up to expulsion.

The women gave the following account, according to academy sources: On the night of Oct. 17, one was celebrating her 21st birthday at an Annapolis bar with friends, possibly including the accused midshipman. She woke up about 2 a.m., sleepy and confused, to find the midshipman in her bed groping her. The second woman similarly said she woke up at 3 a.m. the next night and found the midshipman groping her in bed. In both cases, the alleged attacker had apparently been drinking, academy sources said.

Unlike Ward, who was locked in a Marine brig eight weeks before graduation, the midshipman accused in the latest case is continuing his regular schedule of classes but has been ordered to have no contact with his accusers, Jurkowsky said. Ward was sent to Quantico, Va., for disobeying a similar order, he said.

The latest case shows an increasing willingness among women to bring sexual assault charges, Jurkowsky said, signs of progress in an institution where women long have feared reprisal for daring to complain.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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