Mid won't face trial

Navy report finds no rape evidence

June 04, 2008|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

A Naval Academy midshipman has been cleared of charges that he raped a female student in her dorm room in October, the military college announced yesterday, pointing to a Navy investigative report that found an "almost complete lack of physical evidence."

Midshipman Mark A. Calvanico, 21, of Secaucus, N.J., will not face a court-martial on charges of rape, indecent assault, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming an officer, the academy said in a news release.

Calvanico could still face disciplinary action through the academy's administrative conduct system, a college spokeswoman said. A Navy investigating officer had recommended an administrative hearing for Calvanico that could result in his dismissal from the academy for allegedly failing to meet curfew, being drunk and disorderly, and other offenses.

Calvanico's was the third high-profile case of sexual assault brought by the academy against midshipmen in the past three years.

One of the midshipmen, Kenny Ray Morrison, a substitute football player, was sentenced last year to two years in a military prison for having sex with a female student without her consent in a Washington hotel room in 2006.

The academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, decided not to refer the charges against Calvanico to a court martial after he "carefully reviewed the Article 32 investigating officer's report and enclosures," the academy said in a statement.

An aunt of Calvanico's said yesterday that the family was "delighted" with the decision.

"It's been a nightmare, a living nightmare, and we're glad it's over," said the aunt, Regina Durazzo. "And justice has prevailed."

Calvanico, who recently completed his third year at the academy, was training at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia and not available for comment, she said.

Attempts to reach Calvanico's accuser yesterday were unsuccessful.

The accuser, a sophomore, tearfully testified at a military hearing this spring that Calvanico entered her Bancroft Hall room in Annapolis three times in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, Oct. 14. She testified that he had been drinking and that she asked him to leave.

On the third visit, she testified, she awoke to find him on top of her. She said he pinned her down and forced her to have sex, according to testimony at an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury proceeding. The Sun generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults.

Lt. John E. Clady, the investigating officer who presided over the Article 32 hearing, had recommended the charges be dropped. He pointed out that the only physical evidence presented by prosecutors was the woman's DNA found on Calvanico's boxer shorts and his DNA found on her neck. He said that evidence supported Calvanico's claim that he and the woman had consensual contact, such as kissing, but not sexual intercourse.

An academy spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Michael Waddington, Calvanico's civilian attorney, who specializes in military cases, said it is not uncommon for authorities to override the recommendations of investigating officers and send cases to trial.

He said such cases present a tough choice: Drop charges and risk looking soft on sexual assaults, or bring to trial a defendant whose alleged guilt is not supported by the evidence.

"In a lot of these cases, the generals, the admirals, they sort of wash their hands of it. They say, 'You know what? I'm not going to make the tough call, I don't want to be slammed in blogs,' " Waddington said. "A lot times they wash their hands of it and say, 'Let the jury decide.' "

Waddington said that even though Calvanico will not face a court-martial, the case has taken an emotional toll on him and his family.

"Living under the allegation of being a rapist, especially when you're innocent and you have pride in yourself and your family has pride and your brother is an academy graduate. ... That's something that's almost unbearable," Waddington said.

He said that if academy leaders pursue punishment against Calvanico administratively, the midshipman will take responsibility for drinking and violating curfew.

He added that Calvanico had no criminal history and called him a good student and military leader.

Joyce Lukima of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, a victim advocacy group, said she was not familiar with the case but that rape cases in general, especially those involving alcohol and accusers who know the accused, are difficult to prosecute.

"I think a lot of times people have the belief that there is a lot of physical evidence, and, really, that is not the case in most sexual assaults," Lukima said. "It comes down to the victim and the offender and sort of fighting out their stories."

At least 62 reports of sexual assault have been made at the academy since the 2001-2002 academic year, according to a Defense Department report released in December. Only a handful have resulted in convictions.

Former Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. was acquitted of rape in July 2006 but found guilty of two lesser charges, including conduct unbecoming an officer, for having sex with a female midshipman in an academy dorm room.

He was expelled and ordered to repay more than $90,000 in education costs.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.