Sex-assault case against former Navy football player may be dismissed

Military prosecutors on Thursday plan to seek the dismissal of sexual-assault charges against a former Navy football player who is scheduled to go on trial this month, attorneys for the alleged victim said Wednesday.

In recent days, prosecutors have informed attorneys for the accuser, a female midshipman in her final year at the U.S. Naval Academy, that they plan to submit a report to the academy’s superintendent, Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, recommending that the government drop its case against Midshipman Eric Graham of Eight Mile, Ala.

Graham is one of three midshipmen initially charged in the case, which has helped focus attention on the military’s handling of sexual assaults. President Obama recently signed into law a defense bill that changes the role of military commanders in such matters, including ending their authority to overturn convictions in rape and other sexual-assault cases.

Miller’s role in the case against the former Navy football players has been controversial. He is scheduled to take the stand next week to answer defense attorneys’ questions about his decision to send Graham and Midshipman Joshua Tate of Nashville to trial, against the recommendations of his legal counsel and a military judge who presided over a preliminary hearing known as an Article 32. Defense attorneys contend that Miller gave in to political pressure.

Last spring, Miller initially charged Graham with abusive sexual contact, and charged Tate and former midshipman Tra’ves Bush with sexual assault based on allegations that they had nonconsensual sex with the accuser at an April 2012 off-campus party.

The female student has previously said she was drinking heavily that night and remembers little of what happened. The Washington Post does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

After the preliminary hearing, which took place at the Washington Navy Yard at the end of the summer, Miller chose to send Graham and Tate to court-martial and to dismiss charges against Bush.

“We have received no official confirmation the charges will be dropped,” said Chip Herrington, an attorney for Graham. He criticized Miller’s decision to put Graham on trial as “political” and said, “We sincerely hope that this time, he will make his decision in the interests of justice rather than public relations.”

An academy spokesman, Cmdr. John Schofield, said Wednesday night that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on a pending legal matter.

The prosecutors’ recommendation to drop the case against Graham follows a recent decision by Col. Daniel Daugherty, the judge overseeing the court martial, not to permit certain statements Graham made to investigators after they failed to inform him of his Miranda rights. Based on that ruling, Graham’s attorneys Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Susan Burke, an attorney for the alleged victim, said that prosecutors have other evidence they could use and that she was disappointed by their recommendation not to try Graham.

“I urge the superintendent to ensure the prosecution continues,” she said.

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.
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