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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Sexual Assault Cases Revealed at Air Force Academy

Aired June 27, 2003 - 19:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: CNN has reviewed documents that describe a shocking number of sexual assault cases connected with the U.S. Air Force academy.
Now, the documents, which cover a ten-year period, show that offenses committed by Air Force cadets range from date rape to violent sexual assault.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie has details now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The reports form a stack three and a half inches high and detail 51 cases of sexual assault handled by the Air Force office of special investigations since 1993.

They don't include 90 other alleged assaults at the Air Force Academy, where victims either didn't want to proceed, evidence was lacking, or accusations were recanted.

But the documents detailed a kind of abuse of the academy's cadet power structure outlined in a task force report released last week.

In one case from 2001, a female, first-year cadet, says an upper classman offered to store her contraband: CDs, radio, and DVDs, which are not permitted for freshman. The male cadet then threatened to expose the arrangement to coerce sexual acts. That kind of scenario was prompted the academy to now grant amnesty for minor infractions when allegations of sexual assault are involved. With some key exceptions...

MARY WALKER, AIR FORCE GENERAL COUNSEL: The assailant will get no amnesty and the senior cadet involved in that activity will not be given amnesty because as a matter of leadership, he or she should take responsibility for those more junior cadets, so...

MCINTYRE: Other documents detail everything from abduction and rape by strangers to date rape, to sex with minors, and in one case, a cadet was accused of raping a high school friend, who was in a wheelchair.

WALKER: We want to be clear that we're talking about a very small percentage of the cadet population.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: Air Force officials concede there has to be a culture change at the academy. There is a new superintendent in charge, and new policies have been put in place to be more responsive to complaints of sexual misconduct.

But when all is said and done, it comes down to character, and that Air Force report released last week faulted the academy cadets for a tendency to, quote, "place loyalty to their peers above loyalty to their principles" -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

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