Military Headlines

Academy Instructor Charged With Raping Midshipman

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Jan 16, 2013
Military.com  |  by Michael Hoffman

A Marine Corps major, who served as a Naval Academy instructor, is charged with allegedly raping a midshipman while having sex with another midshipman in 2011 after the traditional croquet match between the Naval Academy and St. John's College, according to Navy documents.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Maj. Mark A. Thompson, 43, is facing three charges, including two specifications of aggravated sexual assault and indecent acts; three specifications of conduct unbecoming an officer; and two specifications of fraternization. He is accused of assaulting a midshipman at his apartment. Because the midshipman is an alleged victim of sexual assault, Military.com will not name her.

Ensign Sarah Stadler, who has since graduated, testified Tuesday at Thompson's Article 32 hearing at the Washington Navy Yard. She described a long day of drinking at the croquet match at St. John's College that ended with her and a fellow female midshipman playing strip poker and allegedly having sex with Thompson at his Annapolis, Md., apartment.

Thompson served as the rifle team's officer representative at the time. Stadler, now a gunnery officer aboard the USS Howard, was the rifle team manager. The female midshipman who went to Thompson's apartment with Stadler that night was a rifle team member.

She reported to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that Thompson allegedly raped her.

Thompson was assigned to the Naval Academy in July 2010, teaching history. He has since been reassigned to a position outside the academy, said Cmdr. William Marks, the Naval Academy spokesman.

The Article 32 hearing is the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors and the defense present evidence and question witnesses. An investigating officer will make recommendations on what, if any, charges Thompson should face and forward his report to Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, the Naval Academy superintendent and convening authority. The prosecution offered Stadler immunity for her testimony.

The charges against Thompson come as the military service academies try to figure out what caused a 23 percent spike in reported sexual assaults during the 2011-2012 academic year. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered a "strong and immediate response" following the publication of the report in December.

The Naval Academy was the only service academy to see a decrease in reported sexual assaults in 2011-2012 with a drop from 22 to 13. However, the military report found many sexual assaults at the Naval Academy went unreported, with 225 midshipmen telling Pentagon investigators they were victims of unwanted sexual contact.

Stadler testified Tuesday in the second day of the Article 32 hearing. The Article 32 started Dec. 19. The delay was to allow Stadler to travel from her ship to Washington, D.C., where the hearing was held. Thompson did not testify at Tuesday's hearing. He sat silently, leaning forward in his chair throughout the hearing.

No independent media members attended the first day of the hearing. A public record of the hearing will not be publicly released until the case is completed, Marks said. The account of the day the alleged rape occurred is based on the testimony heard during Tuesday's Article 32 hearing.

Thompson's defense team spent most of the second day of the hearing questioning Stadler about the amount of alcohol she and the alleged victim drank before arriving at Thompson's apartment. Both legal teams asked extensive questions about the relationship between Thompson and Stadler.

The croquet match between the Naval Academy and St. John's College is a well-known social event in Annapolis. Students from both schools as well as Annapolis residents would bring picnics with coolers full of alcohol to St. John's College to watch the competition. Last year, St. John's restricted bringing alcohol to the match, instead selling it at a cash bar.

However, in 2011, attendees were still allowed to bring alcohol. Stadler said she went to the croquet match with the alleged victim and other female midshipmen. Their group brought a cooler filled with a bottle of champagne, two bottles of wine, a six-pack of Woodchuck cider and a bottle of Patron tequila. The group arrived at St. John's around 10:30 a.m. and spent the day drinking, socializing and watching the match.

Stadler and the alleged victim walked to a Mexican restaurant in downtown Annapolis called El Torro Bravo after the match. There, Stadler and the alleged victim met other midshipmen and the two ordered a "fishbowl margarita."

Stadler described her friend and herself as "drunk."

Stadler said she was mad Thompson didn't meet them at the croquet match, adding she and the alleged victim agreed to walk to his apartment to visit him.

Thompson and Stadler had begun a sexual relationship in February 2011, three months before the croquet match, Stadler said. The midshipman and the instructor first kissed on a trip to West Point, N.Y., when Thompson and Stadler traveled with the rifle team for Navy's match against Army, she said.

Stadler said she and Thompson had sex "four or five" times before April 30, 2011. In one instance, Thompson invited another male Marine officer, and the three of them had sex at Thompson's apartment on an unspecified date, Stadler said.

Stadler had told the alleged victim about her relationship with Thompson, Stadler said. She told another friend that she was having sex with an officer.

On April 30, 2011, Stadler and the alleged victim entered Thompson's apartment through the back door, Stadler said. The two midshipmen still had tequila from the Patron bottle they had shared throughout the day, Stadler said.

Thompson and the two midshipmen sat down at a table and drank from the bottle. When it was finished, Thompson opened another bottle of tequila. At that point, Stadler said she thought the alleged victim was feeling ill from drinking. Instead of tequila, Stadler poured her water.

While Stadler and Thompson drank tequila and the alleged victim drank water, all three started to play strip poker. Stadler said she and the alleged victim removed the dresses they wore to the croquet match during the game. Thompson removed his shirt and his socks, Stadler said.

The next thing Stadler said she remembered was holding hands with the alleged victim "for stability and guidance" and walking to Thompson's bedroom. She and the alleged victim sat on his bed and then lay down naked, Stadler said.

She said she then remembers Thompson "over top of her" and the alleged victim. Stadler confirmed she had sex with Thompson that night. She did not say if she saw Thompson penetrating the alleged victim.

The alleged victim later went to the bathroom to throw up. Stadler held her hair back and recommended she take a shower to rinse off. The two midshipmen then walked back to the Naval Academy and returned to their rooms before midnight, she said.

Stadler and the alleged victim spoke about what happened at Thompson's apartment the next day. Both women agreed that their memories were hazy, Stadler said. The alleged victim asked Stadler to retrieve her bra from Thompson. Later, the alleged victim asked Stadler to tell Thompson he should resign as the officer representative of the rifle team.

Thompson and Stadler's relationship continued after April 30. The two again had sex the night Stadler graduated from the Naval Academy on May 27, 2011, she said.

It's unclear the exact date the alleged victim reported Thompson for sexual assault. In January 2012, Stadler said the alleged victim called her to tell Stadler she reported the alleged rape. Stadler then spoke to Thompson on the phone. Stadler said she got mad when Thompson told her "that must have been a fantasy [Stadler] had."

The investigative officer has an undetermined time to issue his report to the Naval Academy superintendent. However, he instructed Stadler to be available to potentially testify in the next three months if there is a court-martial.

William Ferris, the civilian attorney representing Thompson, said the defense felt there were "discrepancies" with the investigation put forth by the prosecution.

The maximum sentence for aggravated sexual assault under the UCMJ is confinement for 30 years, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dismissal from the Marine Corps.