Monday, August 07, 2006

Admiral Rempt is Between Rock and Hard Place

USNA At Large,
  Here is a very brief summary of where the Owens Case is now.
  What a mess!
  Setting aside for the moment the reality that much of this is a direct result of Admiral Rempt's misjudgments, one can feel a bit sorry for the predicament that now confronts our Superintendent.
  I would suggest that the answer lies in coming home to the de facto mission -- to provide the core combat leadership for the United States Naval Sea Services. To start living it. Over and above the current common lip service.
  Maybe that means the end of a career. But, I'd rather go out with a bang, doing the right thing, than a whimper.
    John Howland
From the Baltimore Sun

Academy may face fallout on Owens

Decision to expel or graduate him could draw anger

By Bradley Olson
Sun reporter

August 7, 2006

On the heels of Lamar S. Owens Jr.'s acquittal on rape charges, the Naval Academy faces a tough choice: Graduate the former Navy football star and give him a commission, or expel him for violating academy rules and saddle him with $140,000 in debt and no degree.

Either option could bring tremendous political fallout.

The former would anger women's groups and members of Congress who have long pressured the academy to crack down on sexual misconduct and reform a culture that has widely been described as hostile to women.

The latter would draw the ire of powerful alumni and possibly minority groups, some of whom object to what they say is a stark double standard in Owens' case.

Four witnesses - including current midshipmen and recent graduates - were granted immunity for agreeing to testify at last month's court-martial, according to court testimony. Two female midshipmen - Owens' accuser and her friend - admitted to underage drinking, renting an off-campus house and other possible rules violations. A recent graduate and former Navy football player testified to having a "social encounter" with the accuser at Bancroft Hall, potentially a rules violation for both. The fourth witness never took the stand.

If Owens is kicked out, it would be for violating academy rules. Owens is African-American; the four granted immunity are white.

"Will they be able to find a legitimate reason to differentiate his treatment from the witnesses who were immunized?" asked Charlotte Cluverius, a former academy law instructor who defends military clients in Washington. "They can do whatever they want and don't necessarily need to justify it. ... Hopefully, they will be as fair as possible with Midshipman Owens."

The prosecution of Owens in a highly publicized case followed sharp criticism in Pentagon studies of the academy's handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints.

Since 2001, two midshipmen of 39 accused of sexual misconduct have been convicted at trial. One was for a rape charge in civilian court; the other was for child pornography in a military trial. An academy spokesman said the school does not know of any case in which a midshipman has been convicted of rape at court-martial.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy superintendent, has taken a zero-tolerance stance toward such conduct. He is bringing charges this month against an oceanography professor who allegedly made explicit sexual comments to a female midshipman and next month in another sexual misconduct case involving a male midshipman.

Defense attorneys for the two and Owens have alleged that Rempt is on a witch hunt to prove he takes sexual assault seriously.

Similar situation
Rempt, who will decide Owens' future, finds himself in a situation similar to one he faced three years ago when he came to the academy. Largely credited as an aggressive reformer of the school's macho culture, Rempt dealt in 2003 with a difficult rape case and a reluctant, psychologically troubled victim.

Rempt opted not to take the case to trial, instead expelling the accused midshipman for rules violations. That decision brought criticism from women's and victim advocacy groups.

Now, in Owens' case, he is being criticized for bringing the charges.

"You had the academy administration leaping into a ... fairly difficult 'he said, she said' case, providing immunity to witnesses and taping phone calls," said John Howland, a 1964 academy graduate who runs a nonprofit organization that distributes news to academy graduates. "That's the kind of stuff you do when you're after the mafia."

Several prominent alumni arranged for Owens' legal defense.

Owens was acquitted of rape last month but convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and violating a protective order to stay away from his accuser. Although he was sentenced to "no punishment," Owens still could face expulsion for what he testified was consensual sex in the academy dormitory between him and the accuser.

Midshipmen caught breaking those rules often are expelled, according to lawyers who handle such cases.

Cmdr. Ed Austin, an academy spokesman, said he could not comment on any of the trials or Owens' future because the matter is under review. He said there is no timeline for Rempt to decide Owens' fate.

Air Force scandal
Temporarily immunizing accusers in rape cases from being punished for rules violations is not unusual and stems from procedures put in motion after a 2003 scandal at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

A number of female cadets had come forward to say that their rape allegations were not taken seriously and that they were punished severely - even expelled - for rules violations. Since then, most accusers are temporarily granted immunity during any rape investigations and judicial proceedings against their alleged attackers but subsequently ordered to undergo counseling as punishment, according to victims' advocates and military lawyers.

But officially and permanently giving witnesses immunity from any punishment in exchange for testimony - as in the Owens case - is highly unusual at the service academies. A Navy official familiar with academy trials said that outside of Owens' trial, only two witnesses have been granted immunity at courts-martial in the past 10 years at the Naval Academy. The official said immunity was given in this case because the rules violations were less serious than the rape charge against Owens.

Congress, which ordered several investigations after the Air Force Academy scandal, has again begun to probe how sexual assaults are handled at the academies.

In a congressional hearing in June, Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, lectured Pentagon investigators and top officials at all three service academies for their handling of sexual assault and promised to continue investigating the problem.

Victim advocacy groups say that the rape acquittal will discourage future victims from reporting rapes.

Delilah Rumberg, co-chairwoman of a Pentagon task force that investigated Naval Academy culture, said offering witnesses immunity is an important step for the service academies.

"In order to be able to hold people accountable and send a strong message, these offenses must be handled severely. Rape is a very different crime than underage drinking," she said, referring to one of the rules violations for which the midshipmen were given immunity. Rumberg, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said that although people may object to giving witnesses immunity, "that's what happens when you try to make change - people have to come out of their comfort zone."

Still, there could be backlash if Owens is expelled.

Sources close to the case say minority groups and some members of Congress are concerned about whether Owens is being treated more harshly than the white midshipmen at his trial who were given immunity.

Carl O. Snowden, an Annapolis civil rights activist and NAACP member, said many African-Americans in the community were "pleasantly surprised" by the outcome of Owens' trial because none of the five academy officers on the jury was black.

"It would be a very unfortunate situation for the academy and its reputation if the decision was made to punish him," he said. "It would not be viewed well by African-Americans or in the community."


At 2:52 PM, Blogger glenda bailey said...

kenny ray morrisonII sits in a naval brig because of rempets abuse of power. the jury and judge are war crimmals.


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