FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, firstname.lastname@example.org
*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***
ESPN TO AIR INVESTIGATIVE REPORT OF BACKLASH AGAINST CADET AND AIR FORCE OSI SPECIAL AGENT WHO BLEW THE WHISTLE ON AIR FORCE ACADEMY FOOTBALL TEAM SEXUAL ASSAULT SCANDAL
U.S. Air Force Academy Conducts Superficial Investigation Into Sexual Assault Scandal, Top Academy Officials Do Not Review Evidence, Instead Protect Football Players and Retaliate Against Whistleblowers, Force Them Out — Watch Tomorrow Evening on ESPN
One Month Before the President’s Deadline for the Military to Improve Handling of Sexual Assault, Recent Scandals at the Air Force Academy, West Point and Fort Leonard Wood Demonstrate that Too Often Commanders Are Unable or Unwilling to Do So
Washington DC – Tomorrow, ESPN’s award-winning news magazine, E:60 is airing “Operation Gridiron,” an investigation into allegations of sexual violence involving members of the Air Force Academy football team, and what happened to the undercover cadet and Air Force special investigations agent who tried to blow the whistle. The Air Force won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this past weekend when they beat Army.
Air Force investigator Special Agent (SA) Brandon Enos, and Eric Thomas, a cadet informant, were retaliated against after their work in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) led to the first successful prosecutions of sexual assault at the Academy in over a decade. After helping to successfully prosecute the cases, SA Enos was transferred out of the academy, stripped of his badge and eventually forced out of the Air Force. Cadet Thomas was expelled for actions related to the undercover work he did during the investigation for the OSI. ABC News’ Nightline reported on the scandal last week.
“Here’s a man [Thomas], that actually upheld the honor code and he gets hammered and kicked out of the academy,” Enos told Nightline. “And the message that sends to everybody is, ‘You don’t talk about sexual assaults.’”
In August, the Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told the media that she called for an Inspector General’s investigation of the athletic department. However, the IG never asked Thomas for any evidence during their “investigation.” The Academy has refused to release the report saying nothing of major concern was found and claiming it “did not uncover any allegations that would initiate an investigation.”
Last October, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap spoke with veteran and Protect Our Defenders member Ariana Klay, and Attorney Susan Burke about the epidemic of sexual assault in the military in an episode of E:60, after three Naval Academy football players were accused of assaulting a 20-year-old female midshipman at an off-campus party.
WHAT: ESPN’s E:60: Operation Gridiron: Jeremy Schaap reports on the debate raging over the program labeled Operation Gridiron, its use of informants, and whether members of the Air Force football team received preferential treatment
WHEN: Tuesday, November 4, 2014
TIME: 8:00 PM ET
In December 2013, President Obama gave military leaders one year to, “make substantial improvements with respect to sexual assault prevention and response.” But instead we continue to see multiple investigative stories regarding military bases and academies across the country, which have uncovered shocking misconduct and criminal actions that have been inappropriately handled by military leadership or simply swept under the rug.
The Colorado Springs Gazette recently reported on allegations that the West Point football team enticed potential high school recruits by plying them with alcohol and dinner dates with female cadets. According to a military investigator, West Point’s director of football operations told female cadets, “We want recruits to see that there are pretty girls that go here,” in order to show “There are not just masculine women that attend West Point.”
In September, during the sentencing testimony of a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, who was convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault, two victims testified about attempts to silence victims and prevent additional reports. One victim said that a Lt. Colonel had told her and other trainees not to report if they were sexually assaulted. “I have issues of trusting those who are in charge of me,” she said, after being told, “not to make any more allegations.”
Today, Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish, released the following statement:
“Military leaders have said they have ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault, but their actions contradict their assurances to the President and the American public. Protect Our Defenders thanks both Special Agent Brandon Enos and Eric Thomas for coming forward to expose fundamental flaws in the military ‘justice’ system.
“Special Agent Enos and (then) Cadet Thomas were punished for taking sexual assaults at the Academy seriously and attempting to hold accountable those who perpetrated violence and created a dangerous and hostile environment. But after their work led to the first prosecutions of sexual assault at the Academy in over ten years, the Air Force Academy leadership responded by sweeping further cases under the rug. While the Academy claims it took these cases seriously, by all appearances they ignored the evidence gathered by Thomas and Enos. Instead the Air Force took steps to investigate Thomas and Enos. What is clear, however, is that the Air Force Academy has a sexual assault problem, and instead of aggressively pursuing these cases they took steps to silence those trying to do the right thing.
“In a speech last year, the President told every service member who has experienced sexual assault that he has their backs. Protect Our Defenders calls on President Obama to make good on his word, and to stand for transparency and independence in the military justice system. This ESPN investigation and last week’s Nightline report, along with recent scandals at military academies and bases around the country, show that, when given every opportunity to fix the system and hold perpetrators accountable, military leaders have failed to live up to the challenge.
“We call on the President, as our Commander-in-Chief to support fundamental reform, and to empower professional military investigators and prosecutors to do their jobs without being thwarted by a biased command.”
[VIDEO] ESPN: E:60 – Operation Gridiron Trailer
ABC News: Air Force Academy Cadet Goes Undercover to Fight Sexual Assault
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Former cadet: Rape tolerated at Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs Gazette: Commandant Says More Responsibility Will Improve AFA Cadets’ Behavior
New York Times: Informant Debate Renewed as Air Force Revisits Cadet Misconduct
Colorado Springs Gazette: Report: West Point football team recruited high school athletes with booze, women
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Former drill sergeant found guilty in sexual misconduct case at Fort Leonard Wood
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ft. Leonard Wood court-martial highlights sex crisis in military
NBC News: Obama sets one-year timeline for military sexual assault reforms
NBC News: Obama: ‘No tolerance’ for military sexual assault
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.