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Assault Case Against Military Academy Graduate Dropped

September 22, 2005|From Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — An indecent-assault charge has been dropped against an Air Force Academy graduate accused of assaulting female classmates at the Colorado school, according to officials at Randolph Air Force Base.

A separate rape charge is still pending against 1st Lt. Joseph Harding, but it is in legal limbo, shelved by an Air Force judge because a civilian mental health counselor for the accuser has refused to release records of their sessions.

The accuser's lawyer, Wendy Murphy of Boston, said the other case being dropped should not determine whether prosecutors proceed with the rape case.

Military prosecutors are appealing the ruling in the rape case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a civilian justice panel in Washington.

Harding remains on duty at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., an official said.

Harding, a pilot trainee, was accused of rape in 2000 and of assaulting another cadet the year before.

The alleged rape victim, who has spoken publicly about the case on several occasions, was among dozens of female cadets who said they were ignored or punished after telling military superiors they had been sexually assaulted.

Their stories ignited a scandal in 2003 that led to several investigations and the ouster of top commanders at the academy.

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