The U.S. Naval Academy announced yesterday that it was expelling 15 midshipmen for drug offenses, the final toll of the worst drug scandal at the academy in more than 20 years.
Those implicated used LSD and marijuana, said Lt. Scott Allen, an academy spokesman, saying that 10 were members of this year's class, two were juniors and three were sophomores. Twelve of those expelled are men and three are women.
Besides those whose expulsions were announced yesterday, five other midshipmen -- four senior men and a sophomore woman -- were court-martialed this spring for using and selling LSD and marijuana, and each received either suspended prison sentences or jail terms.
The expulsions, which must be approved by Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, show the Navy's "zero tolerance" for drug offenses but do not indicate a widespread drug problem at the elite training school for Navy and Marine officers, Allen said.
"We feel we've done a thorough investigation," he said. "I think we're very confident we've rooted out the problem."
Allen noted that when the drug investigation began last October, the entire 4,000-member brigade was tested for drugs within 48 hours and all tests were negative. Midshipmen also are tested randomly, he said. Each week three of the 30 military companies are subject to urinalysis testing.
The drug scandal was part of a rash of wrongdoing during the past year that included a car theft ring, breaking and entering, and allegations of sexual misconduct.
Fourteen of the midshipmen were found guilty in administrative hearings that continued into late July, Allen said.
The fifteenth was discharged for failing to report drug use by another midshipman.
Seniors will be required to pay back $85,000 for their taxpayer-supported education, while juniors will have to pay $60,000, Allen said.
The investigation began with a sting operation conducted in October at a Glen Burnie motel after authorities received a tip from a midshipman. Posing as drug dealers, agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service sold LSD to two midshipmen they later arrested.
Initially, 24 midshipmen were implicated in the drug scandal, Allen said. The remaining four were either found innocent or there was not enough evidence to warrant a conduct hearing.
Some midshipmen say LSD is the drug of choice because it is difficult to detect through testing: After a day or so there is no trace in the body.
Most of the 24 students investigated in the drug scandal were not part of any organized ring, a number of midshipmen said in interviews. Their cases were related only because they were accused after the October sting operation led academy leaders to demand that anyone who knew about drug use notify authorities.
One midshipman from New Jersey, who resigned this year as a sophomore while under investigation for LSD use, said his roommates purchased three doses of LSD from another midshipman in January 1995. It was a Saturday night, and they were preparing to go to the Annapolis Mall to celebrate their first night of liberty after several months of being restricted to campus for violating the prohibition on freshmen drinking alcohol.
In October, they were called in and accused of possession and use of LSD, based on a report from a midshipman whose identity they do not know.
The New Jersey man said drug use at the academy was far less widespread than at any civilian college, partly because of the surprise urine tests given to midshipmen periodically.
"If you go out on a weekend and smoke pot, you come back and there's a [drug] test and you'll get caught," he said. "That's why LSD got popular. You use LSD on a weekend and the [drug] test won't catch you."
A May academy graduate from Ohio, who was not implicated but who knew several of those involved, expressed anger that all midshipmen have been tarred with the brush of the drug scandal.
"Ninety-nine percent of the brigade was furious at these people who were using drugs," the graduate said.
Like other midshipmen, he insisted that drugs are extremely rare at the academy.
Pub Date: 8/07/96