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Steven Munoz, Campaign Worker To Santorum, Romney, Accused Of Sexual Misconduct At The Citadel

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A former star cadet at the Citadel who worked for the presidential campaigns of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney has been identified as the suspect in an investigation of sexual misconduct involving fellow male classmates at the South Carolina military college.

According to an internal school email first reported by Buzzfeed and later obtained by The Huffington Post, the former cadet accused of making unwanted sexual advances is Steven Munoz, who graduated in 2011. The website quoted extensively from the email sent by Jeffrey Perez, the college's vice president of external affairs, to Citadel officials, and later passed on to Buzzfeed by a third-party adviser to the school's Board of Visitors. Perez did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost but the school provided the email late Wednesday.

Munoz, who also did not respond to requests for comment, was hired by the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum to oversee organizing for the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa. According to the Daily Beast, Munoz recruited what one classmate called "The Citadel Mafia" to staff Santorum phone banks. The former Pennsylvania senator came in fourth.

BuzzFeed reported that Munoz "ran Santorum's presidential campaign's advance team," and, more recently, that Munoz was paid for event planning for the Romney presidential campaign, on two occasions this summer. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul declined comment to HuffPost, pointing instead to the BuzzFeed article. It quoted a Romney campaign official saying that "Munoz 'was never an employee of the campaign' but simply 'did a few ad hoc projects for us on a per diem basis.'"

The sexual misconduct allegations were first detailed by Charleston's CBS affiliate, WBTV. It did not identify the suspect or his accusers -- both current cadets -- and neither will HuffPost to protect their privacy. The police incident report was filed with the Citadel Department of Public Safety last week as the school sought assistance investigating the matter from state police.

Although the incidents are alleged to have started more than two years ago, Citadel spokeswoman Charlene Gunnells told HufPost that the two cadets went to campus police Friday to report the incidents. In its email to the Corps of Cadets, school officials wrote, "The circumstances of these assaults, which occurred 18 months or more ago, suggest that the assailant used his authority over the victims to get close to them."

The local CBS station said that two male freshmen cadets reported being accosted sexually by an upper classman.

According to the incident report, obtained by The Huffington Post, in the first case in April 2010, a freshman -- known as a "knob" at the Citadel -- said he was groped in a dorm room while he and the suspect were watching the movie, "The Patriot." The victim said the suspect touched his inner thigh and when he pushed him away was told, "it was okay for guys to touch each other." The report said the suspect then grabbed the younger cadet's genitals and said "everyone did it."

"The suspect then alluded to watching pornography and masturbating with a group of guys," the CBS affiliate said, citing the report. "The suspect also reportedly told the victim 'it was more okay for guys to be with guys sexually before marriage than to be with girls and that God would be less angry at the two guys messing around than a guy and a girl.'"

A second cadet came forward to recount the same suspect's alleged unwanted advances in February 2011 before and during a trip to Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The victim said he was assaulted three different times over a four-day period, including attempts to kiss him and press his penis against his thigh. At CPAC, a witness said he saw the suspect bounce on the victim "in a homosexual manner" in an incident he described as "extremely odd and clearly sexual."

No criminal charges have been made because, according to the incident report, the two men who reported the incidents don't want to pursue the case.

Service Women’s Action Network executive director Anu Bhagwati, whose group represents military victims of sexual misconduct, said of the reported incidents, “Values are instilled in future officers at institutions like the Citadel.”

“The Citadel and other military universities cultivate the future leaders of the military, so in order to eliminate sexual assault in the military it must be eliminated at the schools first.”

The latest allegations come at a time when the Citadel faces civil lawsuits stemming from its failure to report former cadet Louis “Skip” Reveille for sexually abusing boys at the school's summer camp, where he worked as a counselor. Reveille was sentenced this summer to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to abusing 23 boys over a decade.

The Citadel also has attracted unwanted headlines over abusive hazing of freshman, as well as the harassment and resistance that followed a court order to open the once all-male, taxpayer-supported military college to women.

The new allegations not only raise similar questions about the Citadel's responsibility for protecting its charges but also could prove embarrassing to the Republican Party's presidential candidate and one of its staunchest social conservatives.

Indeed, Munoz, a native of Miami, isn't just any Citadel graduate. He was class president for three years, making a video with another cadet inviting parents of their class of 2011 to make a contribution in honor of their graduating senior. Munoz won several school awards for leadership, served as choir commander for the Catholic Campus Ministry and helped grow the Citadel's Republican Society as its president.

“We were able to see first-hand the need for good principled public servants,” Munoz said of the cadet's trip to CPAC, where some of the alleged groping took place.

Munoz's LinkedIn profile lists him as "Christian, Citadel Graduate, President at American Southern Group LLC." The Charleston-based political consulting firm's website says it is "committed to the old Boy Scout motto, 'Do a Good Turn Daily.' Through various community service projects and mentoring we are always seeking to pay it forward. We are a Christ centered business seeking to glorify God through our business, and our customers value our promise to always be 100% honest."

That emphasis on Christian values jibes with Santorum's primary role as the favorite of Christian conservatives.

Santorum, who has a son who is a freshman cadet at the Citadel, did not return a request for comment.

As a cadet, Munoz had worked for Gresham Barrett, one of the most conservative congressmen in the House before he failed to win the Republican nomination for governor of South Carolina against Nikki Haley.

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