Three Air Force Academy cadets charged with sexual assault
“The alleged misconduct in each of the three cases is unrelated, it occurred at different times over the last fifteen months, and Academy officials received victims’ reports at various times. 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. "We expect the best from our cadets, and do not tolerate unacceptable behaviors."
Two of the cadets charged — Stephan H. Claxton and Kyle A. Cressy — were still attending classes this week, according to a charge sheet released by the academy to The Times. The third, Robert M. Evenson Jr., was on "casual status," which usually means a cadet is awaiting another assignment.
Claxton faces four charges, according to the charge sheet, including sexual contact with a cadet without the cadet's permission, striking and choking a cadet and trying to undress a female cadet who was "substantially incapacitated." Claxton, a junior, is also charged with under-age drinking.
Cressy, a senior, faces two charges of sexual contact with a female cadet who was "substantially incapacitated," according to the charge sheet, meaning she was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or otherwise unable to make decisions, according to military legal manuals.
Evenson faces three charges, according to his charge sheet, including sexual contact with a female cadet "by using power or strength or restraint to her person sufficient that she could not avoid or escape." The senior is also accused of dating a cadet of lower rank and helping a female cadet with an honor code case in exchange for sexual favors.
The three cadets' hometowns were not released. It was unclear how many cadets they allegedly assaulted.
Hearings to determine whether the cases will go to court-martial are expected by next month, an academy spokesman said.
Last academic year, 33 sexual assaults were reported at the Air Force Academy, up from 20 the year before, according to a Defense Department report released last month. Academy officials said five of the reports were for incidents that occurred prior to military service -- meaning the cadets were not assaulted at the academy, but reported the assaults while there, an academy spokesman told The Times.
The report also showed that the military academies’ sexual assault reports went up by more than 50% last year, with 65 assaults reported compared with 41 the year before.
Of the 18 cadets, midshipmen and other service personnel accused of sexual assault at the service academies last academic year whose cases were resolved by the end of the year, only one was sent to court-martial, according to the report.
Defense Department officials have said the increase in sexual assault reports at the academies did not necessarily mean sexual assaults were happening more frequently, but may be due to victims being more willing to report the assaults.
The Air Force Academy has a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator established in 2005 available to take reports of assaults and provide assistance 24 hours a day, according to their website.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: Cadets march outside the chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, Colo. Credit: David Zalubowski/Associated Press.