Air Force officials charge cadet with rape
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colorado (CNN) -- A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet has been charged with rape and sodomy, and is to appear at a Wednesday morning hearing that will determine whether he faces a court-martial, an academy spokesman said.
According to John Van Winkle with the academy's public affairs office, Douglas L. Meester, a sophomore, is scheduled to appear at the academy at 8 a.m. (10 a.m. EDT) in the Article 32 hearing. He faces four charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including rape, sodomy, providing alcohol to minors and indecent assault.
The charges stem from an alleged incident at or near the academy involving Meester and two other female cadets in October, according to a court document.
An Article 32 hearing is held to determine if there is enough evidence to forward the case to a court-martial or make recommendations for an alternate action.
If these offenses go to court-martial, Meester faces a maximum punishment of confinement for life, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dismissal from the Air Force.
The academy and its administrators have been under a firestorm of controversy since reports of dozens of cases of alleged sexual assault have come to light at the school.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colorado, whose office has been trying to help the alleged victims of the sexual assaults, has faulted academy officials for not responding properly.
"Each one of these cadets provided information on how the academy failed to adequately support them after they reported a sexual assault or rape," Allard said at a March 6 Senate hearing. "The perception by some of these cadets was that they were actually punished for reporting. Clearly, the academy's support and legal system failed to assist these cadets."
In late March, the Defense Department announced its plans to conduct an investigation into the allegations of rape and sexual assault from female U.S. Air Force cadets.
That same month, the Air Force announced it was replacing four top officers in charge of the academy as part of a "broad series of directives" in the wake of allegations by female cadets that sexual assault victims were punished for coming forward.
Allard, a member of the Armed Forces Committee, said he has received 39 complaints, 13 of them from cadets and one from a civilian employed at the Colorado Springs-based Academy.
The 39 complaints are in addition to the 56 the Academy has already received, Allard's office said.
The Air Force Academy has "zero tolerance" for sexual assault at the academy and in the Air Force at large, Van Winkle said.
According to an earlier academy statement, "Any and all perpetrators will be brought to justice and disciplined appropriately. Such reprehensible action is utterly inconsistent with our commitment to train and equip a world-class officer corps that is the pride of our nation."
On March 26, Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James Roche issued the Agenda for Change in an attempt to quell the uproar over the sexual assault scandal.
"The Agenda for Change was issued to ensure our policies, procedures, training, case disposition, victim support and all other aspects of this issue are consistent with justice, Air Force values, and our goals of training the airmen of tomorrow," according to Van Winkle.