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Naval Academy Moves Ahead On Sexual Assault Case Against Navy Football Players

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Navy players celebrate after a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Army, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Philadelphia. | AP
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The U.S. Naval Academy's superintendent has decided to move ahead with a case in which a female midshipman accuses football players of sexually assaulting her after she was passed out from a night of drinking, the school announced Monday.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller sent the case to Article 32 proceedings. That is the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing or grand jury investigation. The hearing determines if there's evidence to proceed to a court-martial.

The case comes as a string of sexual assault cases in the military has drawn attention and criticism in Congress, the Pentagon and the White House. Many of the assault cases involve alcohol, the military has said.

Cmdr. John Schofield said in a statement that the initial Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into this case has been completed and reviewed.

It was unclear how many football players would be named in the case, and names had not yet been made public.

The woman says the assault took place at an off-campus house in Annapolis last year. The woman's attorney, Susan Burke, said late last month that her client woke up with bruises after a night of heavy drinking and later learned from friends and social media that three football players – whom she considered friends – were claiming to have had sex with her while she was blacked out. Burke did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

President Barack Obama talked about the sexual assault problem when he spoke at the academy's commissioning ceremony last month. The president said those who commit sexual assault threaten the trust and discipline that makes the military strong.

Other Navy football players have faced assault allegations in the past.

In 2006, Lamar Owens Jr., the team's starting quarterback, was acquitted of rape but found guilty of lesser charges. He was expelled from the school. Another one-time member of the team, Kenny Ray Morrison, was convicted in 2007 of sexually assaulting a female classmate at a Washington hotel. He was sentenced to two years in the Navy brig.

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