Navy football players facing charges in alleged rape

The superintendent of the Naval Academy has decided to bring charges in the alleged sexual assault of a female midshipman last year by three members of the football team, academy officials said Monday.

The woman has told Naval investigators she remembers little of the alleged assault, which she said occurred after she became intoxicated at an off-campus party in Annapolis, according to her attorney.

Susan Burke, the Washington-based attorney, says the alleged victim learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming after the party that they had had sex with her while she was incapacitated.

The allegations out of the nation's premier training ground for Navy and Marine Corps officers were made public last month amid rising concern over sexual assaults within the military. President Barack Obama raised the issue during his commencement address at the academy last month, saying the assaults undermine the military's strength and must be stopped.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy superintendent, has referred the case to an Article 32 hearing, academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield said.

An Article 32 hearing is a preliminary proceeding sometimes compared to a civilian grand jury. A military judge will hear testimony, weigh evidence and produce a report for Miller, who then may refer the case to court-martial, order administrative sanctions or dismiss the charges.

The number of defendants, their names or the charges were not available Monday, academy officials said.

Burke told The Baltimore Sun last month that her client was assaulted after she went to a party at an off-campus "football house" in Annapolis in April 2012. She said the woman woke up at the house the next morning with little memory of what had occurred.

The midshipman reported the incident to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Burke said, but told investigators she had been intoxicated and could not provide much information.

Burke said her client was disciplined for drinking. She said the football players remained on the team for the fall 2012 season.

The Pentagon estimated last month that as many as 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 the year before. The number of incidents reported rose to 3,374, up 6 percent from the year before.

The report out of the Naval Academy was the latest in a series of widely publicized allegations of assaults.

The officer in charge of the Air Force sexual assault prevention and response program was charged with groping a woman in a Northern Virginia parking lot.

More than 30 instructors at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, have been investigated in a continuing probe of sexual misconduct involving more than 60 trainees. At least nine instructors have been convicted and sentenced to prison or hard labor.

Obama told the academy's Class of 2013 last month that "those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong."

"That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they've got no place in the greatest military on Earth," he said.

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