A third ex-player, Tra’ves Bush, 22, of Johnston, S.C., who was charged with aggravated sexual assault, will not face court-martial. Bush was prevented from graduating in May while the case was pending. All charges against him have been dismissed, said his attorney, Andrew Weinstein.
Attorneys for all three men said the military judge, Cmdr. Robert P. Monahan Jr., who presided over the preliminary Article 32 hearing and filed a 174-page report to Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy’s superintendent, last week did not recommend that any of the midshipmen face court-martial.
Lt. Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said he could not discuss details of the judge’s report until the case was over.
However, Schofield said Miller’s decision was consistent with the judge’s findings about what probably occurred at an April 2012 off-campus party, where the alleged sexual assault occurred. The victim, now a 21-year-old senior, testified that she was drinking heavily that night and could not remember much of what had happened. The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Miller’s decision, his spokesman said, “is not based on the probability of a successful prosecution. Rather, it is [Miller’s] responsibility to independently evaluate evidence and determine if reasonable grounds exist that a crime has been committed by the accused.”
The superintendent’s choice to proceed with a court-martial comes amid intense scrutiny of the military’s handling of sexual-assault cases.
The Department of Defense has estimated that as many as 26,000 service members were the targets of unwanted sexual contact last year, although only 3,374 incidents of sexual assault were reported. The release of those numbers was accompanied by several high-profile cases this year, including an Air Force general’s decision to overturn the conviction of a fighter pilot on sexual assault charges and the arrest of the Air Force officer in charge of sexual assault prevention in the alleged groping of a woman outside a Crystal City bar.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers have been pushing for such cases to be taken away from the military chain of command — so far, without success.
Ronald “Chip” Harrington, an attorney for Graham, said Miller’s decision to send the case to court-martial over the recommendation of an experienced military judge ”is evidence of bowing to public pressure.”
“There is no evidence of a non-consensual criminal act by Eric Graham,” he said.
Jason Ehrenberg, an attorney for Tate, was also critical of the decision to ignore the judge’s recommendation. “We are disappointed,” he said. “But we are confident that if Midshipman Tate receives a fair trial, he will be found not guilty.”