By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
3:00 PM EST, January 31, 2013
A former Naval Academy instructor who is accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman will be court-martialed, an academy spokeswoman said Thursday.
Marine Corps Maj. Mark A. Thompson, a former history instructor at the academy, is accused of assaulting the midshipman in his Annapolis apartment following the annual croquet match between the academy and St. John's College in 2011.
Adm. Michael H. Miller, the academy's superintendent, referred the case to a general court-martial after reviewing information from a preliminary hearing that concluded this month in Washington, spokeswoman Jenny Erickson said.
Thompson is to be charged under the sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that deal with sexual assault, failure to obey an order or regulation, and conduct unbecoming an officer, Erickson said.
Thompson is presumed innocent until proved guilty. A date for the court-martial has not been set.
The Naval Academy and the military as a whole have been grappling for years with sexual assaults among members.
The Pentagon said recently that reports of sexual assaults at the Naval Academy fell from 22 two years ago to 13 last year. But the other service academies — the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo. — saw reports increase during the same period, leading to an overall spike of 23 percent.
It remains unclear how accurately the number of reports reflects the number of actual assaults. Officials believe many attacks go unreported, and they conduct surveys of midshipmen and cadets to get a clearer picture.
At the Naval Academy, 15.1 percent of women and 2.6 percent of men said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact, both down slightly from a 2010 survey.
In a December memo to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies showed that "we have a persistent problem," and he called for a "strong and immediate response."
"The young men and women enrolled at the service academies must be able to learn and develop as future leaders in an environment free from sexual assault and sexual harassment," Panetta wrote. "They must feel secure enough to report without fear of retribution, and offenders must be held appropriately accountable."
"We recognize there is more work to do on sexual assault prevention across the Department of Defense as well as at the military academies," said Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. He said his staff would work with each academy "to find new ways to incorporate prevention of sexual assault and harassment into academy culture."
Details of the preliminary hearing in the Thompson case were reported by Military.com.
According to the news website, former Midshipman Sarah Stadler testified that she and a fellow female midshipman visited Thompson at his apartment following the croquet match on April 30, 2011. The fellow midshipman later reported the alleged assault to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
The Baltimore Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual crimes.
According to Military.com, Stadler said she and the alleged victim drank alcohol at the croquet match, at a Mexican restaurant in Annapolis and at Thompson's apartment. She described the alleged victim and herself as "drunk."
Stadler, now a gunnery officer aboard the destroyer USS Howard, testified she had had sex with Thompson before April 30, according to the news website. On the night of the alleged attack, Stadler said, she, the alleged victim and Thompson played strip poker in his apartment.
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