Courts martial have been set for two former U.S. Naval Academy football players charged with sexually assaulting a woman midshipman at an off-campus party in 2012.

Midshipman Joshua Tate, 21, of Nashville, is charged with aggravated sexual assault. Eric Graham, 21, of Eight Mile, Ala., is charged with abusive sexual contact. Tate and Graham both are also accused of making false statements in the case.

Tate, a junior, and Graham, a senior, face courts martial, or trials in a military court, despite a recommendation by a military judge in October that their trials not proceed. An investigator in the case determined that it would be difficult to prove crimes had occurred, though evidence indicated the possibility.

Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller, speaking for the first time about the incident in a Dec. 9 interview with the Associated Press, said he opted to move forward with the courts martial because of an obligation to make sure all charges involving students are thoroughly investigated.

“I wanted to ensure that after all of the investment of the time here that we were able to say, yes, we looked at this in great detail and that either there was an offense or there was not, and the only way I could get to that was through a court-martial,” Miller told the AP.

Both Tate and Graham are former members of the Navy football team. Charges were dropped against another player, Tra’ves Bush, 22, of Johnston, S.C., who was also charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Lawyers for both Tate and Graham have said that both men are innocent. Supporters of the pair have expressed concern that a larger, ongoing controversy surrounding allegations of unwanted sexual contact in the military motivated the prosecution.

The 21-year-old accuser told investigators that she had been drinking one night in April 2012 when the events allegedly occurred during a party. She said she learned about the alleged events by other people and through social media, but was initially hesitant to go forward with charges.

Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer