The superintendent of the Naval Academy ordered two former Navy football players to face court-martial for allegedly sexually assaulting a female midshipman at a party last year.
Acting against the suggestion of the judge presiding over the case's recently concluded Article 32 hearing, Vice Admiral Michael Miller referred the cases of Midshipman Eric Graham and Midshipman Joshua Tate to court-martial on Thursday. Graham is charged with abusive sexual contact and Tate with aggravated sexual contact; both are charged with making false official statements. A third suspect, Midshipman Tra'ves Bush, will not face a court-martial.
"Miller's decisions were informed by the findings and recommendations made by the Article 32 Investigating Officer, as well as by independent legal advice from the Navy's Region Legal Service Office and the Naval Academy's Staff Judge Advocate," the academy said in a statement. And Miller's spokesman defended the Vice Admiral's decision to order the two to court-martial, saying it “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.”
Chip Herrington, the lawyer for Midshipman Graham, said his client was not guilty. “Obviously we are disappointed with Vice Admiral Miller’s rejection of the recommendation of his own investigating officer,” Herrington told the New York Times. “However we believe we have the truth on our side and we look forward to the opportunity to prove once again that Eric Graham committed no crime.”
Herrington also referenced President Obama's recent call for sex offenders in the military to face severe punishment. “We have no doubt that the president’s comments have had an influence with regard to the public pressure placed on Vice Admiral Miller,” Herrington said.
The court-martial is likely to take place before the end of the year.
[Image of Midshipmen Eric Graham and Josh Tate via AP]