Conviction tough in Naval Academy case

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Military prosecutors have the “difficult, if not impossible,” task of proving two former U.S. Naval Academy football players sexually assaulted a midshipman because the woman’s contradictory and misleading testimony damaged her credibility, according to an investigating officer’s report obtained by The Associated Press.

The case is further complicated by the failure of naval investigators to read one of the men his rights before he admitted engaging in a sex act with the woman, the officer wrote in recommending the cases not be brought to courts-martial.

Despite the recommendation, Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy superintendent, decided last month to court-martial Midshipmen Josh Tate and Eric Graham in the case involving an intoxicated classmate at an off-campus party. Miller decided not to court-martial a third student accused of sexual assault, Midshipman Tra’ves Bush.

The case is drawing heightened attention as Congress, the White House and the Pentagon are focusing on stamping out sexual assault in the military and a rise in reported assaults. Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering legislation that would remove commanders, including superintendents at the nation’s military academies, from the process of deciding whether serious crimes like sexual misconduct cases go to trial.

The alleged victim in the Naval Academy case has said she was drinking and does not remember having sex with the men at the April 2012 party but heard about it later from others. Proving that the woman was incapacitated and unable to consent to sex is key to proving the government’s case. Defense attorneys have said there is no evidence the woman was forced to have sex.

“As difficult as it would be for the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (the alleged victim’s) professed lack of memory at the time Midshipman Graham engaged in sexual activity with her was due to her being substantially incapacitated, the government’s task becomes extremely more difficult, if not impossible, due to the heavy damage done to (the alleged victim’s) credibility at the Article 32 hearing,” Cmdr. Robert Monahan, the investigating officer in the case, wrote in his report to Miller.

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