2 midshipmen assaulted; fellow Mid charged

The Baltimore Sun

A midshipman has been charged with assaulting two other Mids after a female student was punched in the face and her boyfriend was thrown into the water off City Dock, Annapolis police said.

No one was seriously injured. The scuffle Sunday night occurred amid the Naval Academy's sweeping effort to curb misconduct and severely cut back on free time.

It also took place on the weekend of the Navy football team's victory over Notre Dame, after which Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, the academy superintendent, rewarded midshipmen by allowing plebes to leave campus Sunday and canceling classes for all students Monday.

The assault was one of a string of episodes that have brought the academy bruising exposure in recent years, including the deaths of three midshipmen in alcohol-related accidents, sexual-misconduct cases and news reports of a bawdy spring break cruise during which Mids were accused of raucous behavior while drinking.

"The Naval Academy is investigating allegations of misconduct involving a midshipman accused of assaulting two other midshipmen on Nov. 4," academy spokeswoman Deborah Goode wrote in an e-mail. "When alleged incidents of misconduct occur, they are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken."

She would not specify discipline that the midshipman could face. "We're still investigating the alleged incident, so at this point we can't go into detail," Goode said.

In court documents, senior Daitra Ann Pierson said she was struck in the face by Joseph D. Baer, 23, after she and her boyfriend, Jose Anderson Ayala, tried to break up a scuffle between midshipmen and three civilians. She said Baer snapped her cell phone in half and shoved Ayala, 22, into the water before running off.

Pierson, 21, said she and Ayala, first-class midshipmen in their senior year, were walking back from dinner about 8 p.m. when they saw a confrontation. "As Midshipmen, we felt obligated to attempt to alleviate the situation and intervene," she wrote in a District Court application for charges.

In the documents, Ayala said one of the men, later identified as Baer, was wearing a bloodied T-shirt, and that a civilian had a bloody nose. Most of the men left after being told to disperse, but Baer and an unidentified Mid stayed, she said.

"Both were drunk, uncooperative and disrespectful," she wrote in court papers. "Jose and I identified ourselves as first class midshipmen in order to clarify why we were so concerned about the Midshipmen leaving the scene."

When they told Baer they would report the incident to the academy's main office, he grew angrier, she said, following them as they phoned in the incident and threatening to throw a cell phone they were using into the water.

Pierson said Baer ran at Ayala, and that she was punched in the face as she tried to prevent them from falling into part of City Dock known as Ego Alley. She said he pushed her off the dock, but that she was grabbed and brought back by Ayala. Baer then pushed Ayala into the water, she said.

Baer was charged with two counts of assault and one of malicious destruction of property.

A man who answered Pierson's cell phone said she was not available for comment and referred questions to the academy's public affairs office. Baer could not be reached for comment.

Cpl. Jennifer Crews-Carey, Annapolis police spokeswoman, said the incident was reported to police just before midnight Sunday.

"Occasionally, you may get one that's intoxicated, but for the most part they're probably the best-behaved people downtown," Crews-Carey said. "It's not only us, but they have the Naval Academy to answer to."

In a February memorandum sent out to all 4,400 midshipmen and obtained by The Sun, the academy's drug and alcohol education student officer noted an "unacceptable" increase in alcohol-rules infractions despite a policy that had gone into effect that school year that put the school at the forefront of efforts at colleges nationwide to curb binge drinking.

The rules prohibit underage drinking, and Mids 21 and older are limited to one drink per hour and three drinks on any given evening, not to exceed 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content, the legal standard for drunken driving in Maryland and many other states.justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Bradley Olson and Ruma Kumar contributed to this article.

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