WASHINGTON – An Army sergeant has been charged with secretly photographing and videotaping at least a dozen women at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, including in a bathroom.
The Army said Wednesday that Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon is facing charges of dereliction of duty, mistreatment, entering a women's bathroom without notice, and taking and possessing inappropriate photos and videos of women who were naked or in various states of undress.
The women have been notified by the Army about the matter.
McClendon, who is a combat engineer and joined the military in 1990, was assigned to the academy from 2009 to this month. He was a member of the support staff at West Point, working with cadets.
He was charged on May 14 with violating four articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but some of the allegations date back to 2009. He has been transferred to Fort Drum, N.Y.
The case is the latest in an embarrassing series of arrests and incidents of sexual misconduct across the military, and comes on the heels of a Pentagon report that estimated that as many as 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted last year.
"The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our Cadets at the Military Academy at West Point - as well as all soldiers throughout our Army," said Gen. John Campbell, vice chief of staff of the Army, in a statement. "Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable."
The charges, first reported by The New York Times, detail that he took videos of various women's body parts without their consent. And the charges note that the videos have been recovered.
According to the Army, McClendon was relieved of his duties on May 17, 2012, and was ordered to have no contact with cadets and was barred from entering cadet areas on the post. The yearlong delay in formally charging McClendon was because of the complexities of the case and the effort to recover the forensic evidence.
McClendon, who is from Blakely, Ga., is doing military duty at Fort Drum, and is not being held in a jail.
Army spokesman George Wright said that throughout the notification process, the Army will protect the privacy of the individuals involved as well as offer support services as required.
In recent weeks, military leaders have expressed anger and shame over their failure to stem the escalating sexual abuse across the services. In a meeting last week with defense and military officials, President Barack Obama asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey to lead a process to root out the problem.
Calling it a crisis, Dempsey said the women who serve in the military are losing confidence that the problem can be solved.