Deal frees 3 Mids charged with rape

Football players quit academy

accuser stays, is spared trial

March 09, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel and Laura Sullivan | Andrea F. Siegel and Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County officials have halted the prosecution of three Naval Academy midshipmen accused of raping a classmate at an off-campus party last June.

In a deal reached a week before their scheduled trial, the men agreed to leave the academy, to have no further contact with their accuser, and to do nothing to jeopardize her Naval Academy career.

One midshipman resigned yesterday and the other two resigned Wednesday, in anticipation of the highly publicized case ending next Thursday without a trial.

The arrangement will allow the men, who were facing the risk of convictions and decades in prison, to ask the county's circuit court to erase records of their arrests after three years, provided they do not get into trouble with the law.

"They are not going forward with the prosecution, and we are not going forward with our education at the Naval Academy," said Warren A. Brown, attorney for Cordrea "Dre" Brittingham, 21, of Berlin, Md.

"Nobody got all that they wanted and everybody got something."

No repayment required

The arrangement ends the military careers of the three former starting football players. They will not be required to repay educational costs because, though they are now juniors, the rape is alleged to have occurred while they were sophomores.

"It spares everyone the agony of a trial. My people are no longer in jeopardy and I'm happy with that. Presumably, they are happy," said T. Joseph Touhey, attorney for Arion K. "Bas" Williams, 22, of Detroit. He said he also spoke for the other accused midshipman, Shaka A. Martin, 22, of Danville, Va.

Anne Arundel prosecutors declined to comment on the deal, saying only that victims are included in talks about the disposition of all cases. Academy officials also declined to discuss the matter.

The accuser's mother said she respects the decision made by her daughter, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

But she said she remains angry over the incident and its aftermath, which has been devastating for her daughter. The mother said she is frustrated that the case will end with only the defense attorneys' recounting of the events that transpired that night.

"Women are going to be even more reluctant than ever to come forward after what she has been through," she said, referring to defense attorneys' efforts to bring out intimate details of her daughter's life. To protect the identity of sexual assault victims, The Sun does not name them or their close relatives.

"Ultimately our peace has to come from within," the mother said. "It can't depend on their punishments. We have to go on with our lives."

The pending closure of the case, however, brought relief to some academy officials who dreaded a trial that would make public details of an off-campus party June 29 where a half-dozen midshipmen had been drinking heavily. The prospect of unfavorable publicity also included events beyond the party in Arnold.

DNA tests

According to charging documents, the female midshipman went to "pass out" in a bedroom and awoke to find Brittingham and Williams assaulting her. They were charged a few days later. Martin was charged in October after police said results of DNA tests implicated him.

The men contended the sex was consensual, authorities said. But prosecutors said the woman was barely conscious and unable to consent.

Classifying the cases as inactive is the equivalent of dropping them in a dead letter file and is the next best thing to having charges dropped outright.

Prosecutors could reinstate the cases for any reason within one year and with a judge's permission for two more years. But attorneys in the area said they could not recall such a case being revived three years later.

`Great for defense'

"It is great for the defense," said William C. Mulford II, a former Anne Arundel prosecutor whose practice includes criminal defense work. He is not connected with the midshipmen's cases.

"They can't go to jail. There are no admissions, so they can't be used against them later in the event there was a civil proceeding," he said. "After it's expunged, they will be able to say for the rest of their lives that they have never been arrested or convicted of a crime."

The deal allows the female midshipman, a junior, to continue at the Naval Academy. It avoids trial testimony that could reveal details of her life, and eliminates the possibility that the academy could use allegations of infractions to expel her or force her to resign.

Since last fall, defense attorneys have peppered the court with requests for a psychiatric exam of the woman, for rape counseling records, and for medical and academy disciplinary records, in hopes of getting information about her background before a jury.

Prosecutors said such requests were aimed at harassing the woman and pressuring her to back away from the charges by putting her life on trial.

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