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Academy to Put Cadet on Trial in Rape Case

The Coast Guard will conduct its first such court-martial, involving nine assault charges.

April 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A cadet at the Coast Guard Academy will face a court-martial on rape and other charges, the first such trial in the institution's history, the school said Wednesday.

Webster M. Smith, 22, faces nine charges including rape, sodomy, extortion and assault.

He had faced misconduct accusations from seven female cadets, ranging from rape to improper touching. Rear Adm. James C. Van Sice, the academy superintendent, dismissed five charges Wednesday, including indecent assault and one sodomy charge.

It was unclear whether any of the accusers were dropped from the case altogether.

The rape charge involves a woman friends described as Smith's girlfriend, and testimony last month centered on a night of drinking in Annapolis, Md.

One friend testified that the alleged victim passed out and was shocked to learn the next morning that she and Smith had had sex.

The date of the court-martial, the military equivalent of a trial, was not set.

"As we've said from the beginning, Webster Smith is not guilty of these charges, and we will make that demonstration," said defense attorney Merle Smith, no relation to the cadet.

Smith, a senior, remains enrolled but has been barred from contact with other cadets. His status will stay the same until the trial is over, an academy spokesman said.

The school is not releasing the identities of the accusers.

The academy, founded in 1876, is the smallest U.S. service academy, with an enrollment of about 980.

Women represent about 30% of Coast Guard Academy cadets, compared with less than 20% at the Air Force and Naval academies and about 15% at West Point.

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