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Naval Academy football players to face sex assault charges

Three Naval Academy midshipmen will face charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a female midshipman last year, a U.S. military official told NBC News Monday.

The female midshipman told investigators that she was sexually assaulted by the three men — all Academy football players at the time — at an off-campus party in April 2012. 

The Naval Academy Superintendent, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, is the convening authority for the case. A spokesperson for the Naval Academy confirmed that Miller "has decided to send this case to Article 32 proceedings," the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing. 

It is unclear if all three men will face charges, which could come as soon as Tuesday.

"The initial [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] investigation has been completed and reviewed," Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield said, but he could not comment on what the specific charges are yet.

The woman initially reported the incident in 2012 and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service immediately launched an investigation, sources told NBC News. But the woman essentially withdrew her complaint when she stopped cooperating with investigators, and the investigation was halted. 

But in February of 2013 she renewed her complaint and the investigation continued.

Sources said the woman knew the men and considered them friends, but during a night of heavy drinking the three allegedly had non-consensual sex with her at different times.

The woman's lawyer, Susan Burke, has told NBC News that her client was "ostracized" for the accusations, and that the incident was "widely known at the Naval Academy." 

Burke has been critical of the Academy in how they have handled the investigation. She said her client was disciplined for drinking while her alleged attackers went unpunished for more than one year. 

One of the accused, however, had his graduation put on hold this year pending while the investigation was ongoing. 

The other two are juniors at the Annapolis, Md., school.