Mids free on bail in assault

Accused, accuser returned to close confines of academy

Defense will argue consent

July 06, 2000|By Laura Sullivan and Andrea F. Siegel | Laura Sullivan and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Two Naval Academy football players charged with raping a fellow midshipman were released on bail yesterday and returned to the academy to resume football practice and summer school while under court-ordered supervision.

An Anne Arundel County District judge reduced the two athletes' bail from $250,000 to $50,000 at a hearing yesterday afternoon, where a half-dozen football players and tearful family members filled the courtroom.

The judge also ordered that the two have no "direct or indirect" contact with the female midshipman who said she was attacked. She is also on school grounds for the summer.

An academy attorney at the hearing said the school will attempt to keep the students separated, despite the close living quarters, and requirements that the students form lines, march and eat together.

Academy spokesman Cmdr. Mike Brady would not comment on whether it is appropriate for the two starting football players to return to school and to training, saying the school would not take any action and would "abide by the orders of the Maryland District Court judge."

The parents for both students posted the required 10 percent bond yesterday. Defendant Arion Keith Williams walked out of the county detention center in Parole wearing blue shorts and a T-shirt shortly before 8 p.m. and was met by two academy officials who escorted him back to campus in a school van. Academy officials returned about 8:45 p.m. for defendant Cordrea Brittingham, who also wore blue shorts and a T-shirt.

Flanked by three friends and with family nearby, Brittingham was escorted to the van at 8:50 p.m. Friends hugged him and wished him well before driving off.

According to court records, Brittingham of Berlin and Williams of Detroit, both 21, told police that they had sex with the 20-year-old female midshipman while she was "unconscious" at an off-campus party in Arnold.

Attorneys for the two disputed yesterday that their clients confessed and argued that the female midshipman had "consented through her actions." .

The hearing became heated when Williams' attorney, T. Joseph Touhey, and Brittingham's attorney, Warren A. Brown, said the woman had no reason to fear for her safety.

Brown said the defendants are "exceptional young people," academically and athletically. Touhey said the matter of consent "is hotly contested" and that "this situation is not such that this was a violent rape."

Assistant State's Attorney Laura Kiesslingresponded, "If they are the types of people who do what they did to this girl, yes, I am concerned for her safety.

"I can also say that I know that the victim here has an exceptional character and would have no reason to lie," Kiessling said.

"They [assaulted] her at the same time ... while she was unconscious," she said. "Maybe they weren't beating her in the face while they were doing it, but it was still violent."

Both defense attorneys later said they plan to argue that the woman was not unconscious, contending that her blood-alcohol level at the hospital was 0.11, "equivalent to drinking three beers, maybe," Touhey said.

According to the police report, the female midshipman went to a bedroom to "pass out" about 10:30 p.m. and was driven to the hospital by a friend shortly before 2 a.m. It is not clear when her blood-alcohol level was tested.

"It's going to be a he-said, she-said, but it's going to be more than that because there are other hes and shes in this," Touhey said.

Touhey said everyone at the party, including six or seven academy students, had been drinking, but that Brittingham and Williams were not drunk, having shared "only a pint of gin between at least three or four people."

The waterfront home is being rented by the parents of an another midshipman who is a classmate of the woman involved. The parents were not home at the time of the party, Touhey said. They could not be reached for comment.

Police brought Brittingham and Williams in for questioning early Friday and interrogated them for 12 to 13 hours. Touhey said Williams and Brittingham did not ask for an attorney because "they didn't feel they needed one. They are two straight-up guys."

Brown said he is so confident of his client's account - that what happened was consensual - that he will make the unusual request that prosecutors bring Brittingham before the grand jury that will consider whether to indict him.

"I am filing a request with the state's attorney's office to let my client go before the grand jury and let him explain his side of this to the grand jury," he said.

Brittingham said police "have things in my charging papers that I didn't say," Brown said.

Lt. Cmdr. Richard Giroux, legal adviser to the commandant of midshipmen, said it is possible for the academy to structure the activities of the three midshipmen so that they do not meet in class or on a training cruise.

Military rules prohibit the academy from doing anything that could be perceived as punishment before a trial, he said.

"It's a large-enough institution that we feel we can meet the intent of the court," Giroux said.The court also prohibited the suspects from using drugs or alcohol.

Brittingham's mother, Teola Brittingham, cried yesterday as she was helped out of the courtroom by relatives and said she was "still in shock" over the allegations.

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