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3 Navy players charged in assault

– The U.S. Naval Academy on Wednesday charged three football players with sexually assaulting a female midshipman at an off-campus house in Annapolis more than a year ago, a case that has brought renewed focus to how the nation’s military academies handle reports of sexual assaults.

The academy said in a statement that the male midshipmen are being charged with two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One involves rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. The other is for making a false official statement.

The academy did not identify the three students, and it was not immediately clear if they have an attorney.

Two of the students were football players this past season, but they are not on the team anymore. Another is still on the team, but he has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.

“The case is still in the pre-trial phase, so any further comment on this ongoing investigation would be inappropriate,” Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said in a statement.

The alleged assault occurred in April 2012. The woman’s attorney, Susan Burke, has said the woman woke up with bruises after a night of heavy drinking and later learned three football players she considered friends were claiming to have had sex with her.

“My client and I are cautiously optimistic that justice will finally prevail in this case,” Burke said in a statement Wednesday. “Even if this case is successfully prosecuted, the larger problem remains: rape cases in the military are controlled by untrained and biased commanders whose career interests may be served by covering up incidents like this one. The Naval Academy’s handling of this case raises troubling questions about how the victim and the football players were treated. This case reflects why rape victims are fearful and skeptical of the military justice system.”

Burke has noted the academy closed an investigation into the same allegations last year without charges.

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