US Naval Academy investigates rape allegation

Football players at US naval institution investigated in year-old case

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 7:58am

Several football players at the United States Naval Academy are under investigation on allegations they raped a female midshipman at a party last year.

Naval criminal investigators were examining the allegations lodged against three football players at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

The case highlighted a growing crisis over sexual assaults in the military's ranks and comes a week after US President Barack Obama spoke at the academy, warning that the problem threatened to undermine discipline in the armed forces.

The investigation, stemming from an April 2012 party, has sputtered off and on for more than a year, hampered in part by the woman's initial reluctance to co-operate, the officials said.

She was ashamed and then later felt intimidated, according to her lawyer.

Academy officials said that the men were allowed to play for the team last autumn because no charges had ever been brought in the case, and that they were accorded the presumption of innocence as a result.

On April 14, 2012, the woman, then a third-class midshipman, says that she went to a crowded off-campus party hosted by a group of football players.

She said she had drunk heavily before the party and was intoxicated by the time she arrived at the football house. She said she drank more after she got there and began to black out.

She said she could recall only brief moments. She remembers sitting on a bed in the house with one football player, then being in a car with three others.

"I was sitting on my knees on the floor in the back seat," she said. "I remember briefly seeing them, and I remember crying, and being upset and saying I'm sorry."

Later she woke up on a stairway in the house, and then finally awoke the following morning on a couch. Eventually, she said, she was driven back to the academy by one of the players now under investigation.

The woman said she texted that football player and wanted to talk. He came to her room, where she said he eventually acknowledged that he and another player had had sex with her. She said he later denied having made such an admission to her.

The female midshipman said she felt so ashamed that she did not want to report anything to Naval Academy officials. But a few days later, she said, she learned that another female midshipman was planning to report what had happened.

"That is what forced me to go in and talk," she said.

Twelve midshipmen received some form of disciplinary action as a result of the party, the officials said.

At the end of last year, the woman said she learned the investigation was about to be closed. "After I found out that they were closing the case, it blew my mind," she said.

The New York Times, Agence France-Presse