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Naval Academy football players investigated in alleged sexual assault

Naval Academy football players investigated in alleged sexual assault
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., is investigating allegations that three members of its football team sexually assaulted a female midshipman at an off-campus house last year, a Pentagon spokesman said.
(Kathleen Lange / Associated Press)

The U.S. Naval Academy is investigating allegations that three members of its football team sexually assaulted a female midshipman last year.

“Naval Academy leadership is monitoring the progress of this investigation and evaluating the appropriate options for adjudication,” academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield said in a statement. “It is completely inappropriate to make any other public comment on this investigation or any ongoing investigation as we risk compromising the military justice process.”

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Military officials have not named the players or provided any details about the incident.

The assault reportedly took place in April 2012 at a house away from the academy campus in Annapolis, Md. After a night of heavy drinking, friends of a woman told her that three football players claimed to have had sex with her while she was drunk, according to the Associated Press.

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The woman’s attorney, Susan Burke, said her client reported the incident to Naval authorities but was instead disciplined for drinking at the party, the Associated Press said. Burke said the Naval Academy’s superintendent closed the case without filing charges but recently reopened the file after the woman took legal action.

The allegations come less than a month after the release of a Pentagon report that estimated that 26,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted in unreported incidents last year -- 35% more than in 2010 -- a severe trend that senior officials warned could threaten recruiting and retention of women in uniform.

President Obama, reacting to the startling figures, said he had “no tolerance” for sexual crimes in the ranks and pledged to crack down on commanders who ignored the problem.  Obama said he had spoken to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and ordered that officers “up and down the food chain” get the message.

The statistics were a blow to the Pentagon’s military and civilian leaders, who have announced repeated initiatives to combat rape and sexual assaults, only to see the problem grow.

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The increase in both reported and suspected sex crimes -- and evidence that many in the military still fear retaliation if they report an assault to a superior officer -- comes as the military faces far-reaching social changes, including opening up combat jobs to women and lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly.

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