Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 23, 2003

Naval Academy takes assaults very seriously

All of us at the U.S. Naval Academy were disappointed to read The Sun's article "Rape allegations haunt academy, former plebe" (Oct. 19). It was especially disappointing that the article excluded extensive information provided to the reporter about the Naval Academy's policy related to the prevention of sexual assault.

The Naval Academy focuses on developing combat leaders who understand the principles of unit cohesion and teamwork, uphold the dignity of others and have a sense of personal responsibility and accountability. The Navy and Marine Corps have set a standard of zero tolerance for sexual assault and make it a leadership responsibility to take all such allegations seriously.

Consistent with Navy policy, the academy provides maximum assistance to victims of sexual assault. We strive to ensure victims are protected from further injury by the alleged assailant; that they receive sensitive care and support; and that revictimization as a result of reporting the incident is minimized.

Victims have prompt access to assistance, medical care and counseling. In every case, victims are made aware of and encouraged to take advantage of all available help during each phase of the medical, investigative and legal processes necessary to resolve the case.

The Naval Academy made a decision not to participate in public discussion of the details of this ongoing case as we felt that would infringe upon the privacy rights of those involved, revictimize the victim, discourage other victims from promptly reporting sexual assault allegations and affect the prosecution of the case.

The academy invested significant time with The Sun's reporter -- discussing our policy and procedures for minimizing the potential for sexual assault at the academy, handling allegations of sexual assault, assisting and protecting a victim, and prosecuting alleged cases. But for some reason, The Sun chose not to include any discussion of Naval Academy policy on sexual harassment and assault, or of what we do to assist and protect the victims, or of our aggressive efforts to hold the accused accountable.

As we have previously announced, our decision to withdraw sexual assault charges because of the lack of admissible evidence against the accused midshipman in this case does not preclude the processing of other allegations of improper conduct. According to the law, the accused is presumed innocent unless proved otherwise. Since we had no evidence, a court-martial would have dismissed the charges, which would have precluded further action.

We are currently reviewing the report of investigation and the hearing's results to determine what actions may be taken in this case.

We set high standards and challenge our young men and women to meet them. The vast majority of our midshipmen successfully meet these standards. On the rare occasions when individuals do not comply with our expectations, we take immediate steps to hold those individuals accountable for their actions.

It seems to me that the Naval Academy and The Sun should work in concert to ensure the public has the facts -- without sensationalism -- and that we never rush to judgment in an ongoing case.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt

Annapolis

The writer is superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Council can't blame city's Board of Ethics

One would expect that city legislators would have at least a rudimentary understanding of the basic precepts of the law and ethical conduct ("City Council members fault ethics board," Oct. 21). Yet they blame the city Board of Ethics for not telling them certain things, such as: You really shouldn't hire your relatives, and it really doesn't look good if you take gifts from businesses that have projects before you.

Now everyone knows that, even if it may not always be criminal, it really looks bad if elected officials populate their offices with relatives.

Like chauffeur-driven, publicly financed cars, a little nepotism is accepted as one of the "perks" associated with having won an office. But even the most naive of us would probably think first before accepting a gratuity from someone who needs support from our elected office.

And as far as blaming the Ethics Board, I recall an old axiom: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

Robert DiStefano

Abingdon

If I break the law and plead that I did not know the law, I would still be judged guilty. Why is it, then, that the members of the City Council are blaming the Ethics Board for not informing them of the law?

The real problem is that many of them and their families have been ensconced in office for so long that they think anything goes.

C. D. Wilmer

Baltimore

Montgomery County sets healthy example

Kudos to Montgomery County for realizing that bars and restaurants won't shut down simply because patrons now must step outside to smoke ("Smoking ban is a draw and a drag," Oct. 13).

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