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Three former Naval Academy football players are facing rape charges following allegations they sexually assaulted a female midshipman at a party in April 2012, reports The Washington Post.
Meantime in Tennessee, four ex-Vanderbilt athletes have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the alleged rape of an unconscious woman at an on-campus dorm, reports CBS News.
With sexual assault on college campuses becoming more commonplace, what potential punishments await the alleged abusers?
Navy Pursues Military Justice
For the three former Navy football players, the next stop is military court, where an investigatory hearing Tuesday will determine whether the case has enough evidence to proceed to a court martial -- the military equivalent of a criminal trial, reports the Post.
In civilian criminal courts, most felony charges, like rape, must be proven to be supported by probable cause during a preliminary hearing before the case goes to trial.
The hearing that awaits the alleged Navy rapists is an Article 32 hearing --named for Article 32 of the relevant federal law -- a type of military preliminary hearing that allows each side to produce evidence to determine whether there is probable cause to support the charges.
Unlike a civilian proceeding, however, Article 32 findings are only advisory and not binding; the commanding officer who commenced the investigation can choose to ignore it and drop the charges, effectively letting the former Navy players off the hook.
Many critics of the military justice system point to this discretion as a key part in the surge of military sexual assaults in the last few years.
The Vanderbilt Case
Back in the civilian courts, the four ex-football players from Vanderbilt were charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual battery. They've pleaded not guilty to all counts, reports USA Today.
Rape is a Class B felony in Tennessee. If convicted, each defendant could face eight to 30 years in prison for each count of rape.
Their serious charges stem from allegations that the four athletes -- who ironically never actually played in a game for Vanderbilt -- raped an unconscious 21-year-old woman in the university's Gillette Hall dormitory, reports USA Today.
Hopefully these two cases will convince more universities to focus on programs to curb sexual assault on their campuses and by their students.
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