3 Naval Academy midshipmen charged with rape, false statements

Three male midshipmen at the Naval Academy have been charged with raping a female midshipman and giving false official statements, the academy said Wednesday.

The case will next go to an Article 32 hearing, a military proceeding comparable to a civilian grand jury, and is still under investigation, said Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman. He declined to release the names of the accused midshipmen until after the Article 32 hearing.

"This case is still in the pre-trial phase, so any further comment on this ongoing investigation would be inappropriate," Schofield wrote in an email.

The charges stem from the alleged assault of the female midshipman by three of the academy's football players. The victim's attorney, Susan L. Burke, has said the woman was assaulted after she went to a party at an off-campus "football house" in Annapolis in April 2012. The attorney said the woman woke up at the house the next morning with little memory of what had occurred, and learned of what happened primarily though friends and social media.

Burke said her client was disciplined for drinking and the football players were allowed to remain on the team for the 2012 season.

"My client and I are cautiously optimistic that justice will finally prevail in this case," Burke wrote in an email. She criticized the way the military adjudicates rape cases without involving outside prosecutors — currently a subject of debate between members of Congress and military leaders — calling it a "broken system."

The case comes as the military is under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault. At the academy's commencement address last month, President Barack Obama said the assaults undermine the military's strength and must be stopped.

At the Article 32 hearing, a military judge will hear testimony, weigh evidence and produce a report for the academy superintendent, who then may refer the case to court-martial, order administrative sanctions or dismiss the charges.



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