Three cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs were charged Thursday with sexual assault.
A senior official told the Colorado Springs Gazette the assaults were separate incidents that occurred over the past 15 months. The cadets, one from the class of 2011, 2012, and 2013, are all male, with hearings scheduled for late January and early February.
"The fact that the charges in all three cases are being preferred at this time is due to the near simultaneous completion of each individual investigation," said Col. Tamra Rank, the Academy's vice superintendent, in a statement to Fox21.
Documents provided by the Air Force Academy allege a cadet from the class of 2011 faces three charges: one charge of engaging in an unprofessional relationship; a second charge with three specifications of rape and sexual contact; and third charge of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Regarding the third charge, documents state the cadet abused his position
as the Cadet Non-Commissioned Officer for Honor cases by helping with her Honor case in return for a dating relationship with sexual favors, requiring her to violate her probation in return for helping her, and threatening to harm her military career if she did not comply.
A 2012 cadet faces a single charge that include two instances of inappropriate sexual contact while the other person was incapacitated.
The third cadet, from the class of 2013, faces four charges of of sexual misconduct: One charge of allegedly unzipping a woman's pants while she was incapacitated, a second charge of underage drinking, a third charge of attempting to place another cadet's hand on his genitals, and a fourth charge with four specifications including kissing without consent and striking, choking, and hitting another cadet.
"Each case will be adjudicated independently and the accused in each case is presumed innocent until proven guilty," said Col. Tamra Rank to 9News. "We take these allegations seriously. Sexual misconduct is a particularly egregious offense and we have a zero tolerance policy in the Air Force."
A late-December report from the Defense Department on sexual harassment and violence at the military academies noted an uptick in reports prior to the previous year. "We believe there's much more trust in our system than maybe we've seen in years past," said Col. Reni Renner, vice commandant culture and climate at the Air Force Academy, to the Associated Press at the time.
The Air Force Academy saw an increase in reports last year from 20 to 33.
Flickr photo via markwgallagher