The Naval Academy has concluded that some midshipmen who went on a spring break cruise in the Caribbean that resulted in complaints from civilian passengers "demonstrated behavior that was misguided/immature," but not criminal.
"This type of inappropriate conduct is not tolerated," the academy said yesterday in a statement on the results of its preliminary investigation. Noting that the academy holds students to "extremely high" standards, the academy said: "Any midshipmen who acted inappropriately will be held accountable and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."
The allegations, some of which have been disputed by other passengers, come amid a crackdown on drinking and sexual misconduct at the academy after several high-profile sexual assault trials - the latest of which will begin Monday in Washington.
Academy officials began investigating last week after a married female passenger on the Carnival ship Glory e-mailed a complaint to the academy about the behavior of a group of midshipmen on the cruise. She wrote that eight to 10 male midshipmen groped women, offered to buy alcohol for teenagers and displayed "lewd" behavior while wearing bikini swim trunks and cowboy boots.
They also behaved inappropriately while wearing their uniforms, she said.
"I was 'felt up' by one of the very drunk men and I was given the misfortune of watching them grab and disrespect every woman they could get close to as well as seeing them offer the underage [15- and 17-year-old] girls at our table alcohol," she wrote. "I cannot tell you strongly enough how EMBARRASSED these 'gentlemen' made me feel to be an American."
In an interview with The Sun, the woman said she would be satisfied if the midshipmen were "spoken to" and "reminded that they represent all of us when they're in that uniform." The Sun does not identify people who allege they were sexually harassed.
The academy determined that eight to 10 midshipmen - out of 37 on the cruise - had behaved inappropriately. Deborah Goode, a Naval Academy spokeswoman, said the academy based its findings on the statements of midshipmen and cruise participants.
Jennifer de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines, said the ship's management received no complaints about Naval Academy midshipmen groping women or offering alcohol to youths.
Several passengers contacted The Sun this week to say they never saw the midshipmen treat any women inappropriately.
Brandi Williams, 29, said she spent the whole week with a handful of midshipmen and "didn't have any problems."
"Don't get me wrong, they were drinking and having a good time, but I never witnessed any act of lewd behavior," Williams said. "I mean, the punishment should fit the crime for those that had something to do with it. But they have to defend our country. They're entitled to have some off time."