Former Cadet Pleads Guilty in Rape Case

The only Air Force Academy (search) cadet to face a court-martial (search) following last year's rape scandal pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced charges.

Douglas L. Meester (search) of Marco Island, Fla., was accused of assaulting a fellow cadet in October 2002 during a night of heavy drinking in a dorm room. He was originally charged with rape, sodomy, indecent assault and providing alcohol to minors.

Those charges were dropped and, in exchange, Meester pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming an officer, indecent acts and dereliction of duty. Meester has left the academy and is on extended leave from the Air Force. The service said his status will depend on the type of sentence he received.

Meester entered his plea during a hearing on the day his court-martial was to begin. He was expected to be sentenced during the hearing later Tuesday.

An 18-year-old freshman from Pennsylvania who was in the dorm room has said she passed out and awoke as Meester raped her, but defense attorneys say she never told him to stop and did not resist after drinking at least six shots of tequila.

She was one of scores of women came forward to say they had been raped by fellow cadets and had sometimes been punished or ignored by their superiors.

She did not attend Tuesday's hearing but said in a video statement shown in the courtroom that she feels an enormous amount of guilt for letting herself get into a situation like that but she said she knows she never consented have sex with Meester.

"I have been unable to move on," she said, noting that a trial would have reopened her wounds. She also said she realized a conviction was unlikely.

Meester, his hand shaking as he read a statement, apologized for his actions but insisted that nobody did anything against their will.

"The mere accusation of rape is enough for people to ostracize me," he said.

Meester is attending a university in Florida. Air Force Secretary James Roche declined his request to be allowed to resign from the service rather than face a court-martial.

The woman left the academy after she was threatened with punishment for fraternizing with an upperclassman and for drinking at the party.