published Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Midshipmen identified in U.S. Naval Academy sexual assault case

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A grandfather of a former U.S. Naval Academy football player said Friday that his grandson is one of the three midshipmen charged in the sexual assault of a female student but that the young man told him he had nothing to do with the allegations.

The midshipman, Tra’ves Bush, declined to comment when reached on his cellphone Friday by The Associated Press.

“I’m not speaking on anything regarding that situation,” he said.

His grandfather, Jackson Bush, said in a telephone interview from Johnston, S.C., that Tra’ves Bush had an appointment with an attorney Friday. He said his grandson had a previous relationship with the woman making the accusations. But he said his grandson told him he doesn’t know anything about the assault she says took place at off-campus house in Annapolis in April 2012.

“He knew the girl, but he didn’t know that anything like that had taken place,” Jackson Bush said, referring to the allegations.

Two people with direct knowledge of the case identified the other two midshipmen as Josh Tate and Eric Graham. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they believe it is the Naval Academy’s place to give the names, which it hasn’t done yet. Relatives of the other two students could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Capital of Annapolis first reported the same names.

Academy spokesman John Schofield said names of military personnel are not made public until cases have advanced to a court-martial. Earlier this week, the academy announced that the case will go to Article 32 hearings, which are held to determine if there is evidence to proceed to a court-martial.

The midshipmen have been charged with two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One charge involves rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. The other is for making a false official statement.

The woman, through her attorney, said the assault occurred in April 2012. The woman says she woke up with bruises after a night of heavy drinking and later learned from friends and social media that three football players she considered friends were claiming to have had sex with her while she was intoxicated and blacked out.

Tate was listed as a junior outside linebacker whose hometown was Nashville, Tenn., according to the 2013 roster information on navysports.com. Graham and Bush weren’t on the current list. But Graham was listed on the 2012 roster as a senior cornerback from Eight Mile, Ala. Bush was listed on that roster as a senior safety from Johnston, S.C., and that he was one of Navy’s best defensive players the previous season.

According to previous information released, 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.

Jackson Bush said his grandson had been scheduled to graduate this year, but his graduation was put on hold until the case is resolved.

The case has brought renewed attention to how the nation’s military academies handle reports of sexual assaults. The service academies have struggled for years with sexual assault and harassment allegations, and a string of sexual assault cases has recently drawn attention in Congress and at the Pentagon and The White House. Many of the assault cases involve alcohol.

A court-martial in an unrelated allegation of abusive sexual contact case from the academy is scheduled for next week. Midshipman Patrick Slack is charged with abusive sexual contact, burglary and unlawful entry. William Ferris, Slack’s attorney, said his client is accused of touching a female student’s breast. The court-martial is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Other Navy football players have faced assault allegations in the past.

In 2006, Lamar Owens Jr., the team’s starting quarterback, was acquitted of rape but found guilty of lesser charges in a military court. He was expelled from the school. Another one-time member of the team, Kenny Ray Morrison, was convicted in 2007 of sexually assaulting a female classmate at a Washington hotel. He was sentenced to two years in the Navy brig.

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