- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lamar Owens, co-captain and starting quarterback on the 2005 Navy football team, was charged yesterday by the U.S. Naval Academy with raping a female midshipman.

According to a statement released by the academy, the purported incident occurred Jan. 29 in the woman’s room in Bancroft Hall, the academy’s lone dormitory that houses its 4,000 students.

Owens also faces a charge of wrongfully entering the woman’s room without permission and wrongfully engaging in sexual conduct. He also was charged with indecent assault “by kissing her mouth with intent to gratify his sexual desires.”

Owens, Navy football coach Paul Johnson and athletic director Chet Gladchuk were not available for comment.

“The case is being handled through the superintendent’s office, and it would be inappropriate for anyone in the athletic department to comment,” said Scott Strasemeier, Navy’s assistant athletic director and head of its sports information department.

Attempts to reach Owens’ family in his hometown of Savannah, Ga., were unsuccessful.

The charges came after an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The results of that investigation were delivered to the Naval Academy superintendent, Vice Admiral Rodney Rempt, who made the decision to charge Owens formally.

According to Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, “Any person subject to this chapter who commits an act of sexual intercourse, by force and without consent, is guilty of rape and shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.”

The other two charges are violations of Articles 133 (conduct unbecoming of an officer) and 134 (general article), and punishment is deemed as a court-martial sees fit.

“These charges are accusations, and Midshipman Owens is presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, spokesman for the academy, told the Associated Press.

The next step for Owens, who will continue to attend classes at the academy and is on track to graduate in May, will be a pretrial hearing detailed in Article 32 of the UCMJ. That hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence for a court martial.

Owens originally committed to Georgia Southern — where Johnson was the coach — as a senior in high school but came to Annapolis when Johnson took the Navy job. He was a reserve for three seasons before earning the starting job last offseason.

He led the team to an 8-4 record in 2005, including wins against Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl and against Air Force and Army on the way to winning the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy. Owens led the team with 880 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also threw for 1,299 yards and six scores. Owens received the E.E. “Rip” Miller Award, which is presented to the team’s MVP as voted on by the players.

The rape charge against Owens, 22, is just the latest in a string of sexual assault and sexual harassment accusations that have been brought against males attending U.S. military academies.

In 2001, three former football players at the Naval Academy agreed to withdraw from the school after being charged with rape. In 2003, a midshipman was expelled for improper sexual contact with two female classmates.

Earlier this month, Webster M. Smith, 22, a senior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., was charged with sexually assaulting six female cadets. Smith, a linebacker on the academy’s football team who has been charged formally with rape and other offenses, has denied wrongdoing.

Treatment of women at the military academies has been examined closely since 2003, when women at the Air Force Academy disclosed they had been sexually assaulted by male cadets and their complaints were not taken seriously by commanders.

Results of a congressionally mandated survey, announced last month, showed that in the 2004-05 school year, women at West Point endured the largest share of sexual assault and harassment of any military academy.

Six percent of West Point women said they encountered rape or unwanted touching or fondling last year, while 62 percent said they were sexually harassed. Ninety-six percent reported they were victims of sexist behavior.

At the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, 4 percent of women surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted; 49 percent said they were sexually harassed; and 82 percent said they experienced sexist behavior.

Meanwhile, 5 percent of women at the Naval Academy reported being sexually assaulted in the previous academic year. Fifty-nine percent said they encountered sexual harassment, and 93 percent said they had been subjected to sexist behavior.

Staff writer Joyce Price contributed to this article.

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