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Navy coach discusses sexual assault charges

Navy football Coach Ken Niumatalolo offered his first public comments Thursday regarding sexual assault charges against three players, stressing the gravity of the situation as the team awaits the start of training camp.

The Naval Academy has not released the names of the players charged with two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But multiple reports have identified them as Tra’ves Bush, Eric Graham and Josh Tate.

Names of military personnel are not made public, academy spokesman John Schofield said, until cases reach court-martial. The academy announced last week the case is set to go to Article 32 hearings to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a court-martial.

“We take this very seriously,” Niumatalolo said in Annapolis, Md. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

The academy announced June 19 three players were being charged with making a false official statement and with rape, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

The charges stem from an alleged assault against a female midshipman in an off-campus house in April 2012. Susan Burke, the attorney for the female midshipman, has said her client woke up with bruises after a night of drinking. Her client learned from friends and through social media three football players she knew claimed to have had sex with her while she was intoxicated and blacked out.

The grandfather of Bush told The Associated Press on June 21 his grandson was one of the players charged in the case. Jackson Bush indicated his grandson had a previous relationship with the accuser but said Tra’ves Bush told him he did not know about the alleged assault.

Bush played safety and started 23 consecutive games. He finished second on the Midshipmen in tackles and was first with five pass break-ups as a senior last season.

Bush was scheduled to graduate May 24 with the rest of the class of 2013, but according to his grandfather, his commission has been put on hold until the case is resolved.

Tate, a junior, played in all 13 games last season and is listed second on the depth chart at outside linebacker.

Graham is not on the current roster that was updated after spring practice. Last season Graham was listed on the roster as a junior cornerback.

The academy confirmed one of the accused is a member of the football team and has been suspended. Tate is the only one of the accused on the active roster.