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Naval Academy charges quarterback with rape

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy quarterback Lamar Owens has been
charged with raping a female midshipman in her dormitory room, the
academy announced Wednesday.

"These charges are accusations, and Midshipman Owens is
presumed innocent until proven otherwise," academy spokesman Cmdr.
Rod Gibbons said.

Since the alleged attack last month occurred on academy grounds,
Owens was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and
the investigation is being handled by the Naval Criminal
Investigative Service, Gibbons said.

The academy did not release the name of the woman. Gibbons said
the academy was offering her support and counseling.

Owens, a 22-year-old senior from Savannah, Ga., would not be
available to comment, Gibbons said.

"He remains assigned to the Naval Academy and will continue to
attend class, performing other duties normally assigned to
midshipmen pending results of the investigation," Gibbons said. He
said the academy took steps to prevent contact between Owens and
the woman.

An Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury inquiry,
will be held to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go
ahead with the case, Gibbons said.

The military academies have been under scrutiny since 2003, when
women at the Air Force Academy in Colorado began coming forward
with accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow
cadets over the previous decade and were ignored or ostracized by
commanders when they spoke 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.

Earlier this month, a senior at the Coast Guard Academy in New
London, Conn., was charged with sexually assaulting six female
cadets in the campus barracks and other sites. Webster M. Smith,
22, a linebacker on the academy's football team, was charged under
military law with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy,
school officials said. Smith insists he is innocent, his lawyer has
said.

Owens guided Navy's football team to an 8-4 season record that
included victories over Air Force and Army and a victory in the
Poinsettia Bowl over Colorado State.

Scott Strasemeier, head of the Navy's sports information office,
said Owens' athletic eligibility is complete. He declined to
comment on the allegations. The academy's 2006 starting quarterback
will be chosen during spring practice, which starts March 27, he
said.