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High-profile Annapolis rape case ends; charges dropped

Allegations of sexual assault at the nation’s military academies have put those institutions under a strong spotlight in recent years, with numerous media articles chronicling policies and outcomes that have been widely criticized in many instances.

That questioning climate, coupled with close public scrutiny of select notable cases that have resulted in court-martial, has put strong pressure on military leaders to act in ways that are seen as responding aggressively to sexual misconduct.

A recent and widely reported court-martial case involving a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy bears that out. A major announcement in the case was made just last week, coming at the same time as Pentagon-reported statistics were released that showed an increased number of assaults at the academy.

The case involved allegations made by a female midshipman and senior at the academy, who said she was raped by three classmates at an off-campus party in 2012. The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, dropped charges against one suspect and decided to put the other two accused parties on trial separately.

The first case concluded just last Friday, with Miller dismissing charges against the accused, a former Navy football player and academy senior. The rationale: Investigators subjected him to questioning without first reading him his Miranda rights.

Critics question why Miller ever decided to go forward with the case in the first place, since he knew in advance of his decision to do so that prosecutors and a military judge who presided over a preliminary Article 32 hearing advised against proceeding. The judge presiding over the court-martial threw out evidence sought to be offered against the accused based on that error.

That same judge has now ordered Miller to appear before defense attorneys in the case, who seek to question him on his decision to bring a court-martial action notwithstanding the strong recommendations not to do so.

Sexual assault cases can be complex and emotional, and it is imperative that all relevant facts are gathered and presented. In courts-martial cases involving the application of military law, it is critically important for an accused to secure the knowledgeable and aggressive representation of a proven courts-martial defense lawyer.

Source: The Washington Post, "Sexual-assault charges dropped against second former Navy football player," Annys Shin, Jan. 10, 2014

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