For the first time since an explosive sex scandal rocked the Air Force Academy in Colorado earlier this year, rape charges have been filed against a male cadet at the prestigious school.
The charge was filed Tuesday against Douglas Meester, a sophomore accused of raping and sodomizing a female cadet in a dorm room on Oct. 18. He also is charged with indecent assault and providing alcohol. If convicted, Meester could face court-martial.
His accuser testified during a preliminary hearing, describing how a night of drinking led to rape and how Air Force Academy officials failed to respond.
Steve Werner, the plaintiff's attorney, discussed the case on The Early Show.
"She was very credible," said Werner of his client's testimony. "She stated her story in a forthright manner. And, I think, she covered all the elements of the offenses with which the defendant was charged. I feel this is sufficient basis for this case going forward toward a court-martial."
The attorney explained that his client had filed a complaint within 30 hours of the time she had been raped.
The matter had been referred over to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), he said, which initiated investigation but suspended it until the media and Congress got involved.
Werner also said he was disturbed that the accuser was given a non-judicial punishment by her superiors for admitting to fraternizing with older cadets and drinking when she approached them with her story.
"There's a cadet disciplinary system that runs parallel to the military justice system," he explained. "When a cadet commits an offense against the cadet honor code, he may or she may also commit an offense that's punishable under the code of military justice.
"This case had implications of a commission of a felony... The cadet command authority did not call the judge advocate, did not get proper legal advice and may not have gotten any legal advice. They just try to handle this as a disciplinary matter. As you can see, since the OSI investigation has proceeded, the case is now in military justice channel."
Meester's father, Doug Meester of Marco Island, Fla., told The Gazette of Colorado Springs in Wednesday's editions that the acts were consensual.
"We have faith the Air Force is going to take a look at this and see it for what it is. It was absolutely consensual sex between two kids," he said.
The academy located outside Colorado Springs has been under scrutiny for months since dozens of female cadets said they were reprimanded or ostracized when they reported being raped. The school's top officers have been reassigned, and the Air Force and Defense Department are conducting investigations.
The investigation took another twist earlier this month when it was learned that a senior cadet had been accused of organizing a Web site that promoted group sex, sending e-mails to hundreds of people, and organizing and participating in sex sessions involving as many as two dozen men and one woman in nearby Colorado Springs and Denver.
In the past 10 years, two Air Force cadets have been charged with rape. One was acquitted, and another pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in jail. Administrative action was taken in other cases because there was not enough evidence to prosecute, officials said.
Meester is the first cadet charged with rape but the second to face sex-related charges since the latest scandal erupted.
Cadet Jason Lewis has been charged with sexual assault for allegedly forcing a female cadet to fondle him in his dorm room. Air Force officials held a hearing last week but have not announced whether Lewis will face a court-martial.
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