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Navy football players investigated in sex assault complaint

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By Barbara Starr

(CNN) — Three football players at the U.S. Naval Academy are under investigation in an alleged sex assault involving a female midshipmen almost a year ago, according to a Defense Department official.

According to the official, the three midshipmen were first accused by her at the time of the alleged incident, but she dropped her complaint a few months after the incident. She then made a complaint again earlier this year, and the investigation is now underway by the Navy. The alleged victim’s lawyer, Susan Burke, said her client has participated in wiretapping as part of the investigation at the request of NCIS.

The players are not being identified. However, one of them was a senior scheduled to graduate last month. He is being told to remain at the academy pending the outcome of the case.

“Naval Academy leadership is monitoring the progress of this investigation and evaluating the appropriate options for adjudication,” Naval Academy spokesman John Schofield said.

“It is completely inappropriate to make any other public comment on this investigation or any ongoing investigation as we risk compromising the military justice process.”

A lawyer for the unidentified woman at the center of the complaint added details.

In a statement to CNN, attorney Susan Burke said the woman went to an off-campus party at a “football house” in April 2012 and became intoxicated, and woke up there the next morning “with little recall” of what occurred.

“She learned from social media and from friends that three football players had claimed to have had sexual intercourse with her while incapacitated,” Burke said.

She reported the incident to Navy authorities and explained that she could not provide much information because she had been intoxicated, Burke said.

Burke said the woman was disciplined for drinking and the case was closed without further action by the academy.

Burke told CNN in a separate interview there was a “large body of evidence,” including interviews with people at the party and social media postings, that she said could be used to determine whether charges should be brought.

“Instead, these young men were permitted to play football,” Burke said.

But Schofield said no final investigative report has been submitted to the academy’s superintendent, who would decide whether any charges should be filed.

President Barack Obama raised the issue of sexual assault in the military at May 24 commencement exercises at the Naval Academy.

“Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong,” Obama told the graduates.

His remarks came amid mounting concern over sex abuse in the armed forces with recent figures showing the rate of reported assaults going up. Those factors have led to calls for major changes in how the military handles such cases.

Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Mike Miller said sex assault has “no place” at the school or in the military.

“As the superintendent of this institution, I take seriously my responsibility to train and educate midshipmen, staff and faculty about this critically important issue. I remain committed to fostering a culture of reporting and victim advocacy at the Naval Academy, and will aggressively investigate all cases of reported unwanted sexual contact and harassment,” Miller said in a statement.

The academy had a combined 51 reports of Unwanted Sexual Contact over the past three academic years, figures show. Unwanted Sexual Contact describes a range of behaviors from unwanted sexual touching to rape.

Separately, special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are investigating allegations of an indecent assault involving an Army officer and a Japanese citizen, who is an employee of the U.S. Army in Japan, an Army spokesman said.

Army investigators are not confirming or releasing the names of anyone involved, or releasing any additional information since the investigation is ongoing, Chris Gray, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, said.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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