Air Force Academy superintendent calls for investigation of athletic department


The Air Force football team takes the field for its 2012 home opener in Colorado Springs. (Raymond McCoy/Defense Department)

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy has called for a new investigation into her school’s athletic department in light of alleged misconduct by student athletes that included smoking synthetic marijuana, binge drinking and possibly using date-rape drugs to sexually assault women.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said in a statement published on the school’s Web site Sunday that she has asked the academy’s inspector general to start a review of the athletic department as one of several initiatives to curb problematic behavior.

“These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures at the Air Force’s Academy whose climates do not align with our institutional core values,” she said.

The statement was released as the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs published an investigative piece that said documents obtained by the newspaper showed the culture at the academy was so dangerous that school leaders canceled a 2012 sting operation because they were concerned confidential informants and undercover agents wouldn’t be able to protect women from rape at a party.

A confidential informant told authorities that at one Dec. 2, 2011, party held shortly after the football team ended its season, separate drinks were mixed for men and women, with the women getting offered a cocktail that included both Captain Morgan rum and flunitrazepam, a sedative frequently used as a date-rape drug, the Gazette reported, citing documents it obtained.

“The girls’ drink, or Captain Morgan with the blue lid, was only for girls to drink,” said the informant, a student cadet at the academy identified as Eric Thomas, the Gazette reported. Four or five women did not recall what happened at the party the next day.

No one was prosecuted as a direct result of the party, but it sparked an investigation that led to three cadets getting convicted in a court-martial and expelled. Five other athletes received nonjudicial punishment that resulted in them getting thrown out of the academy, and an additional six cadets resigned.

The cadets who were convicted included three members of the Air Force football program: Jamil Cooks, Anthony Daniels and Stephan Claxton.

Cooks was convicted of abusive sexual contact last year and sentenced to four months time served in confinement before his trail. Daniels was found guilty of attempted sodomy and sentenced to eight months of confinement after a female student said he tried to force her to have oral sex in 2009. Claxton was convicted in two sexual-misconduct cases last year and sentenced to six months in the brig. A panel of officers convicted him of forcing a woman to touch his genitals in one incident, and unzipping a woman’s pants in another after a night of drinking.

The cases rocked the academy, which prides itself on having cadets who do not lie, cheat or steal. Johnson, who has been superintendent for about a year, said in the statement released Sunday that the misbehavior “suggested certain subcultures that were inconsistent with Culture of Commitment and Climate of Respect” the academy wants to uphold.

“In part, recognition of this prior misconduct has caused us to refocus on our culture and climate,” she said. “Since my arrival a year ago, we’ve taken a number of actions across the campus with the objective to even more deeply engrain a culture consistent with our core values. This past year I realigned a senior position to work directly for me as the sole point of contact for culture, climate and diversity issues.”

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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