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Military prosecutors may seek dismissal of Naval Academy assault case

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 12:30 p.m. CDT

BALTIMORE — Military prosecutors are seeking to dismiss charges against one of the Naval Academy midshipmen accused of sexually assaulting a classmate, according to the alleged victim’s attorney.

Midshipman Eric Graham, a senior from Eight Mile, Ala., is facing a court-martial later this month on counts of abusive sexual contact and making a false statement in connection with an off-campus party in 2012.

But prosecutors allegedly lost the use of key evidence in pre-trial hearings and will ask the Naval Academy superintendent to drop the case, said Ryan Guilds, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the alleged victim.

Guilds claims that certain statements Graham told Navy investigators were thrown out because he was not read his Miranda rights. Guilds said he believes even without those statements, the case is strong enough to go to trial, and is disappointed in prosecutors’ decision.

Prosecutors planned to inform the alleged victim, who still attends the academy, on Thursday, Guilds said.

Guilds said he’s asked for a meeting with Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller to make the case in favor of prosecution. In the military, the decision whether to prosecute criminal cases rests with the commanding officer, who in this case is Miller.

Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said Miller has not been officially notified of the prosecutors’ request to dismiss the case.

Graham’s attorney, Ronald “Chip” Herrington of Mobile, Ala., said he hadn’t been officially notified, either. But he said he hopes this time, Miller agrees to drop the case.

Herrington said the military judge who held a preliminary hearing called an Article 32 hearing last year recommended against prosecution. And Herrington filed his own motion to dismiss the case last week.

“We hope that this time, Vice Adm. Miller makes his decision in the interest of justice rather than the interest of public relations,” Herrington.

Graham is one of three former Naval Academy football players initially accused of sexual assault against a female classmate at an off-campus party house in April 2012. Graham is alleged to have received oral sex from the alleged victim, although Herrington believes there’s no evidence to prove that he forced the act to happen.

Following the eight-day Article 32 hearing, charges were not pursued against Tra’ves Bush, who later graduated and was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy.

Graham was officially charged, as was Midshipman Joshua Tate, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., who faces a court-martial in February on counts of aggravated sexual assault and making a false statement.

The Naval Academy case has drawn attention from advocates and lawmakers who are seeking to change the military justice system. There’s a movement to remove prosecutorial authority from commanding officers and to change the Article 32 hearings, which advocates say can be difficult for victims.

Attorneys for the alleged victim have claimed Miller may be influenced by how his decisions may be perceived by the public and his superiors. Miller is expected to testify in pretrial hearings next week on whether he was influenced improperly in the case.

The alleged victim testified during the Article 32 hearing that she had only foggy memories of the night, but learned later through classmates and social media that she may have had sexual contact with classmates.

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