A midshipman has reported to Naval Academy officials that he overheard classmates conspire to create alibis in the cheating scandal that continues to rock the academy, according to individuals close to the investigation.
The midshipman implicated three varsity football players in a scheme to synchronize their testimony before an honor board and accused two more midshipmen of cheating on a final exam last December, said the sources, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.
Academy officials acknowledged receiving a statement with new information from a midshipman, but they would not divulge its contents. A Navy officer is investigating the allegations in the statement, which was received the first week of May, said Cmdr. Mike John, an academy spokesman.
"There's enough information for the investigating officer to talk to additional midshipmen and get additional statements," he said.
He cautioned, though, that the statement alone contains "nothing new, nothing provable and nothing we can take action on."
Twenty-eight midshipmen initially were accused of cheating on the fall-semester final for Electrical Engineering 311, one of the academy's toughest required courses. Honor boards made up of senior midshipmen found 11 guilty, but five later were cleared by top academy officials.
Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the superintendent, has recommended that the six who were convicted be expelled. They are appealing to the secretary of the Navy.
Many midshipmen expressed surprise and disappointment when the superintendent announced the verdicts April 22. During a lengthy question-and-answer session with the brigade of 4,200 midshipmen, Admiral Lynch promised to follow up any new substantive leads, according to juniors and seniors who attended the meeting.
The superintendent repeated his determination to track down new information in an interview the following week and insisted that he would have expelled the entire class of 1994 had there been proof that all of them cheated.
A few days later, three midshipmen approached Midshipman 1st Class Corey Culver, chairman of the brigade honor committee, saying they had information that some students had collaborated on alibis before their administrative hearings. The committee oversees administration of the academy's strict honor code that insists midshipmen "do not lie, cheat or steal."
Midshipman Culver alerted the commandant, Capt. John B. Padgett, who arranged a meeting May 3 with the committee and two academy lawyers. The juniors who will replace graduating seniors on the committee also were present, according to people who attended.
Much of the discussion centered on the 21-day rule, which requires midshipmen to report or counsel students suspected of an honor offense within 21 days, said one individual who was at the meeting.
The lawyers appeared reluctant to proceed with the case, arguing that new charges could not be brought against additional students now that the other cases had been tried, the source says.
"We were arguing that the three who had obviously colluded and lied at their honor boards could be brought up on perjury charges," said another individual who attended the meeting. "They didn't want to hear it."
The meeting ended with the lawyers asking Midshipman Culver to get statements from the three students who had approached him. One of the students agreed to make a statement, which was turned in a few days later, according to Commander John.
"Only one statement came forward in the ensuing week," he said. "We started the investigation several days after it was received."
The midshipman who made the statement says he witnessed a group of classmates conspire "to get their stories straight," according to individuals familiar with it.
Five varsity football players were among the 28 originally accused of cheating, but all were cleared.
Commander John said the 21-day rule was a technicality that could be waived, and new honor offenses could be brought should evidence be uncovered that more students cheated on the final. Honor boards could be convened over the summer because midshipmen have time off between their training sessions aboard warships, planes and submarines. Other midshipmen are available because they're taking summer classes or training the incoming freshmen, he said.