Coast Guard Cadet Charged With Sexual Assaults

A senior class cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has been charged with sexually assaulting six female cadets in the campus barracks.

Webster M. Smith of Houston, a member of the academy's football team, was separated from the rest of student population after the first complaint was filed with administrators Dec. 4, the academy said.

Smith was charged Feb. 9 under military law with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy against female cadets. Chief Warrant Officer David French, an academy spokesman, declined to discuss case specifics Thursday morning.

The military equivalent of a civilian grand jury hearing was tentatively scheduled for March 15 to decide whether to court-martial Smith, French said. Such military hearing are typically open to the public, but the presiding military official could close it.

While separated from other cadets, Smith was not jailed and was allowed to return home for holiday leave. He returned to campus Tuesday and is assigned to work on academy grounds along the waterfront, an area other cadets are prohibited from entering, the academy said.

Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday. The academy does not publish a student directory. The cadet watch desk said only that he could not be reached.

Smith cannot be prosecuted in civilian courts because the alleged incidents occurred on military property. Rape and assault carry the same definitions under military law as they do in civilian courts, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

French said there is no record of any previous court-martials at the academy, the smallest federal service academy, with about 850 cadets. About 30 percent are women, according to its Web site. Male and female cadets share dormitories but have separate rooms.

In 2004, nearly 150 women at the Air Force Academy in Colorado came forward with accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow cadets between 1993 and 2003. Many alleged they were ignored or ostracized by commanders for speaking out. A Pentagon task force found that hostile attitudes and inappropriate treatment of women also persisted at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and at the Naval Academy.