Thursday, October 10, 2013


2 Face Court-Martial in Naval Academy Assault Case

WASHINGTON — Two former Naval Academy football players accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman at an off-campus party will face court-martial proceedings, the latest in a string of high-profile cases in the military that are drawing increased scrutiny from the Pentagon and Congress. 

Eric Graham, left, is charged with abusive sexual contact and Joshua Tate with aggravated sexual assault in a 2012 episode.
The case stems from a “yoga and toga” party last year near the academy in Annapolis, Md., where the woman, then a 20-year-old second-year student, arrived intoxicated and later had sex with some of the players. In grueling testimony last month during a military hearing at the Washington Navy Yard, she said she had no memory of parts of the evening.

The day after the party, the woman testified, she learned via social media of the encounters with three players, who were subsequently charged with sexually assaulting her and making false statements. The investigation was stymied in part by the woman’s initial refusal to cooperate, academy officials said.

The superintendent of the academy, Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, following an initial hearing known as an Article 32 hearing, referred two midshipmen, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate, to general court-martial. Mr. Graham is charged with abusive sexual contact and Mr. Tate with aggravated sexual assault. Both are charged with making false official statements. Admiral Miller did not refer charges against another midshipman, Tra’ves Bush, the third player accused.

Admiral Miller, who is what the military calls the “convening authority” in the case, made the highly unusual choice of pressing for courts-martial against the advice of the investigating officer, who oversaw the hearing and predicted the prosecution would fail to convict the three men.

Admiral Miller determined that there were not reasonable grounds for the charges against Mr. Bush, but that “reasonable grounds did exist to believe that the offenses were committed by Midshipman Graham and Midshipman Tate,” said John Schofield, a spokesman for the academy.

He added: “The convening authority decision is not based on the probability of a successful prosecution. Rather, it is the convening authority’s responsibility to independently evaluate evidence and determine if reasonable grounds exist that a crime has been committed by the accused.”

Andrew Weinstein, the lawyer for Mr. Bush, said he felt gratified. “Midshipman Bush is a young man who has committed his life to the protection of our country,” Mr. Weinstein wrote in an e-mailed statement, “and with these criminal charges now behind him, he looks forward to continuing his loyal and devoted service.”

Chip Herrington, the lawyer for Mr. Graham, said his client was “not guilty and the allegations of sex abuse against him are completely false.”

Pointing to the recommendation of the hearing investigator, Mr. Herrington said: “Obviously, we are disappointed with Vice Admiral Miller’s rejection of the recommendation of his own investigating officer. However, we believe we have the truth on our side.”

During the Article 32 hearing, the woman was aggressively grilled about her sexual habits, generating public outrage about the proceedings, which help determine whether cases are sent to court-martial. Article 32 hearings permit questions not allowed in civilian courts.

Susan Burke, the woman’s lawyer, said, “We’re pleased that the two men have been court-martialed,” although she was unhappy that one was not. “Despite the abusive Article 32 process,” Ms. Burke said, “the victim is strong and remains willing to testify at trial.”

Defense lawyers in the case may argue that the case be thrown out because of so-called unlawful command influence exercised by President Obama, who has called for sex offenders in the military to be punished severely. Mr. Obama, as commander in chief of the armed forces, is considered the most powerful person to wield such influence.

 Several sexual assault cases across branches of the military have been thrown out or curtailed on such grounds. “We have no doubt that the president’s comments have had an influence with regard to the public pressure placed on Vice Admiral Miller,” Mr. Herrington said.

The problem of sexual assault in the military has increasingly alarmed Congress, which is considering changes to the system, including removing prosecutorial powers from commanders and perhaps re-examining the entire Article 32 process.

“Admiral Miller’s action does nothing to foster public confidence in the administration of justice in the armed forces,” said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “His referral of charges against two individuals to a general court-martial in no way blunts the force of the compelling arguments for fundamental reform of the Article 32 process and the transfer of the charging power from commanders to military prosecutors entirely independent of the chain of command.”

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The idea behind the text.
Respect for the truth is almost the basis of all morality.
Nothing can come from nothing.


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