The female midshipman got drunk and passed out, Burke said, and woke up remembering little from the party. “She learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated,” Burke said in a statement.
Burke has taken on similar cases and is urging Congress to change the law so that military prosecutors, instead of commanders who lack legal training, have the power to decide whether sexual assault cases should go to trial. The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on that proposal and related bills. Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior military officers are scheduled to testify.
A recent Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” last year, although only 3,374 reports of sexual assault were recorded. One recent case, involving a former Naval Academy history instructor, went to court-martial this week. Marine Corps Maj. Mark A. Thompson, 43, is charged with aggravated sexual assault amid allegations that he had sex last year with students while playing drinking games and strip poker.
President Obama addressed sexual assaults in the military while speaking to Naval Academy graduates last week. “It only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode people’s trust in their government,” he said in his commencement address May 24 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday that three football players were under investigation in the matter. Military officials released few other details about the allegations and declined to identify the players.
John Schofield, a spokesman at the Naval Academy, said it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics of the case, because doing so would “risk compromising the military justice process.”
Burke said that after the party, the female midshipman and a friend reported the incident to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The midshipman brought a bottle of Malibu Black rum to the party and drank a lot of it. “She blacked out,” Burke said, and couldn’t provide much information to investigators. The case was halted, Burke said.
Burke said her client was disciplined for drinking and was ostracized by the Naval Academy community. By contrast, Burke said, “the football players were permitted to continue playing football and suffered no adverse consequences.” They even talked about the incident during a pregame pep talk, Burke alleged.