3 Air Force Academy Cadets Charged With Sexual Assault

(CNN) -- The Air Force Academy is charging three cadets with sexual assault just a week after a Department of Defense report found a sharp increase in the report of such attacks at the nation's military academies.

Three cadets were charged in three unrelated cases that occurred at different times over a period of 15 months at the academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to a statement released Thursday by the academy.

The announcement follows news that the Defense Department report found the number of sexual assault reports at the academies rose by nearly 60% during the 2010-2011 academic year. A total of 65 sexual assault reports were made involving cadets and midshipman, compared to 41 during the period of 2009-2010, the report found.

Cadet Stephan H. Claxton is charged with the November 2011 attempted rape of a fellow cadet while she was intoxicated, according to charging documents released by the academy. Claxton is a member of the graduating class of 2013, according to the academy.

Cadet Kyle A. Cressy faces charges in connection with the May 2011 rape of a woman while she was intoxicated, the documents said. Cressy is a member of the class of 2012, the academy said.

Cadet Robert M. Evenson, Jr., was charged with wrongfully engaging in a relationship with another cadet and the assault and rape of another cadet from March to May 2010, the documents said. Evenson is a member of the class of 2011, the academy said.

The three men, whose ages and hometowns were not released, are presumed innocent pending the outcome of court proceedings.

All three have military counsel, said academy spokesman John Van Winkle. The accused may retain civilian counsel at their own expense.

At least one of the alleged victims is a civilian, according to Van Winkle, who did not provide other details on the alleged victims.

Two of the cadets are still attending classes. The third is on what is called "casual status," Van Winkle said. That cadet has finished his course work and would normally be ready to graduate, but a decision on that is pending because of the charges.

"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.

The announcement comes at a delicate time for the nation's military academies.

The Defense Department report released last week was unable to cite definitive causes for the increase in the reporting of sexual assaults, but it did say efforts by the academies to encourage victims to report such incidents could have played a role in the swell of cases.

As part of the review, site visits were conducted at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Policies, training and procedures at the academies also were reviewed, and focus groups were held with cadets and midshipmen.

Despite the increase in reports, Defense Department officials found that most of the academy programs satisfied, and in some cases exceeded, the requirements of existing policies.

The Defense Department also announced two new policies in an effort to support sexual assault victims: Victims who have filed an unrestricted report can now request an expedited transfer from their unit, and sexual assault records will now be kept for 50 years in unrestricted cases and five years in restricted cases.


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