[March 17, 2014]WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A former Naval
Academy football player goes on trial on Monday on charges of sexually
assaulting a female midshipman, as the issue of sexual misconduct
allegations in the U.S. military remains under scrutiny.
Midshipman Joshua Tate, a junior from Nashville, Tennessee, is the
only one to be court-martialed among three Academy football players
initially accused of assaulting the woman while she was passed out
at an alcohol-fueled party in April 2012.
At a hearing on Friday at Washington's Navy Yard, Tate opted for
trial by a judge rather than a jury. He is accused of aggravated
sexual assault and making false official statements.
The woman testified at an Article 32 hearing, held to determine
whether a trial was warranted, that she drank heavily at the party
and remembered little of what took place. Reuters does not generally
report the names of sexual assault victims.
The woman, now a senior at the elite service academy in Annapolis,
Maryland, did not cooperate with an initial investigation into the
charges and was disciplined for drinking.
During the Article 32 hearing, she underwent hours of detailed
questioning about her sexual and personal habits.
Charges against one of the men, Tra'ves Bush, of Johnston, South
Carolina, were dropped in October, following the Article 32 hearing.
Charges against another of the athletes, Eric Graham, of Eight Mile,
Alabama, were abandoned in January, largely because Navy
investigators had failed to read him his rights.
The court-martial comes as a sexual assault crisis roils the U.S.
military. The Defense Department said in December that there were
slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults across the armed
forces in the fiscal year ending in October, up about 50 percent
from the year before.
President Barack Obama in December approved reforms aimed at
stemming the crisis. He urged graduating USNA officers in May to
stamp out sexual assault in their ranks.
In a January hearing, lawyers for Tate grilled Academy
Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller over whether he had bowed
to political and media pressure to go ahead with the trial.
Miller denied being under pressure to try Tate and Graham, even
though his legal counsel and a military judge had advised him not to
In the most recent high-profile sexual assault case, the judge in
the court-martial of Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair said on
Tuesday that politics had fueled the decision to try him, and
excused the jury.
Sinclair is charged with forcible sodomy based on allegations by a
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna