WASHINGTON - A soldier at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has been charged with crimes for taking nude photos of female cadets without their consent, extending the military's sex-scandal crisis to the hallowed ground of its premier training academy, the Army announced Wednesday.
It is the latest in a steady stream of sex scandals to hit the military this month as it grapples with what Pentagon brass call a crisis. Two weeks ago, the military estimated that troops reported 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a 35% increase. On Tuesday, the Army announced that the commander of Fort Jackson, Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, had been suspended from his job while being investigated for adultery and assault.
On Wednesday, the Army said Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon was charged on May 14 with dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment and bad conduct. The charges stem from "inappropriate images" he took of cadets without their consent, according to the Army. The New York Times first reported the story Wednesday.
The investigation began more than a year ago, and on May 17, 2012, the Army imposed on McClendon a "no contact" order with cadets that barred him from entering any cadet area, according to George Wright, an Army spokesman. McClendon had been at West Point since 2009 and had previously served two tours in Iraq.
"The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point -- as well as all soldiers throughout our Army," Gen. John Campbell, the service's vice chief of staff, said in a statement. "Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable."
McClendon has been moved to Fort Drum in New York while the investigation is completed.
Tom Vanden Brook, USATODAY