Air Force Cadet Athletes' Alleged Roofie-Filled Party Documented in Damning New Report
Stephan Claxton. More photos and original documents below.
Update below: As we've reported, the scandal at the Air Force Academy that followed in the wake of "The War Within," then-Westword staffer Julie Jargon's 2003 feature about female cadets victimized by sexual assault, led to changes at the institution intended to demonstrate that supervisors take the problem seriously. But these alterations haven't prevented such crimes from taking place.
A case in point was the 2012 conviction of Stephan Claxton on two separate incidents of sexual misconduct. And unfortunately, this incident wasn't isolated. A new report reveals that Claxton was among a slew of recruited athletes to allegedly break the Academy's honor code via use of roofies, spice and more -- and a full-scale investigation is expected to launch soon. Details, documents and photos below.
In a June 2012 post, we noted that the main allegations against Claxton dated back to incidents in March and November 2011, when he was an AFA junior; they're sketched out in the official charge sheet on view below. In the first, Claxton was said to have placed a cadet's hand on his penis while engaging in underage drinking. In the second, he was accused of striking a fellow cadet on the face with his fist and unbuttoning and unzipping her pants without her consent, as well as forcibly kissing and choking her.
A panel of seven Air Force officers subsequently found him guilty regarding two of the three charges against him -- the ones pertaining to the incidents described above. However, he was cleared in a third matter that allegedly took place in a hotel room circa May 2011. He faced up to nine years in a military prison, but he reportedly received a much lighter sentence: six months of confinement and discharge.
This is only one of many tales told in "Broken Code," a first-rate investigation by Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Tom Roeder.
In addition to recapping the fates of athletes such as linebacker Jamil Cooks (he was "convicted of abusive sexual contact after a woman said Cooks sexually assaulted her" and was discharged after spending five months in pretrial confinement) and wide receiver Anthony Daniels Jr. (he was sentenced to eight months after his March 2013 conviction on charges of attempted sodomy), Roeder breaks new ground thanks to a series of documents obtained via open records requests.
Following the AFA football squad's 2010 victory over Navy, for instance, a house party allegedly included "binge drinking and widespread use of the marijuana substitute 'spice,' which is illegal under military law," Roeder writes.
In the end, more than three dozen cadets were reportedly investigated for spice use in general, with 26 of them leaving the school due to either expulsion or resignation. Roeder was unable to determine how many of the group's members were athletes, but witness accounts suggest that a number of them were.
Considerably more disturbing is the account of a house party that followed another AFA win, this time a December 2011 dismantling of the Colorado State University Rams. The heavily redacted document on the subject reveals that two bottles of Jack Daniels were on hand, with one featuring a blue cap to designate that it had been dosed with Rohypnol and Ketamine -- "commonly referred to as 'rufilin' or 'roofies,'" the author notes. The blue-capped version was reserved exclusively for females.
Continue for more about the Air Force athletes-related report, including another photo and four documents. Four women apparently roofied at the party couldn't remember what took place there. But other witnesses, who spoke despite being warned to remain silent, recalled that an unknown woman was "passed out and incoherent" in one bedroom, where "multiple male cadets had sexual intercourse with other unknown females." Further claims of apparent sexual assault surfaced as well.
The activities of 32 cadets, half of them athletes, were probed as a result of these activities. Here's Roader's recap of what happened:
Three of the 32 cadets were court-martialed, sentenced and discharged -- two football players and a women's basketball player. Five more cadets received administrative punishment that resulted in their dismissal -- three basketball players and two football players. Another half-dozen cadets resigned. Three more cadets were kicked out for unrelated misconduct.
Of the 16 football players investigated, seven made it through to graduation.
Air Force Academy Vice Superintendent Douglas Lamberth was among administrators who knew about the Gazette report beforehand, and in a letter giving others at the institution a heads-up, he maintains that the AFA cooperated with the newspaper in an effort at transparency, with a contact person also taking the opportunity to tout "several programs the Athletic Department has implemented over the past year to ensure all cadet-athletes are living up to the Air Force's core values.
"These efforts are helping to eliminate any subcultures at the Air Force's Academy whose climates do not align with our institutional core values while ensuring we remain focused on the leadership and character development of our 4,000 cadets," Lamberth adds.
Update: Shortly after the publication of this post, we were contacted by an Air Force Academy representative, who provided a statement about these issues from Academy Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. Here it is:
A 2011-2012 investigation stemming from a party in December 2011 led to the disenrollment and prosecution of several intercollegiate, as well as other, cadets. This past behavior was troubling and suggested certain subcultures that were inconsistent with the Culture of Commitment and Climate of Respect we work hard to uphold at USAFA. In part, recognition of this prior misconduct has caused us to refocus on our culture and climate. Since my arrival a year ago, we've taken a number of actions across the campus with the objective to even more deeply engrain a culture consistent with our core values. This past year I realigned a senior position to work directly for me as the sole point of contact for culture, climate and diversity issues. This office is aligning and monitoring our cultural sensors across the installation. Furthermore, I, along with my senior staff, have continued to emphasize accountability not just with the cadets, but with the permanent party. I've personally visited the Athletic Department on several occasions to meet with the coaches and administrators to communicate my expectations and to highlight their important role in cadet development. The Athletic Department has responded. They've implemented several programs to ensure all cadet-athletes are living up to the Air Force's core values. They established the Respect and Character Enrichment (RACE) committee that meets weekly to ensure teams and athletes are living up to our expectations. They recently sponsored a "Mentors in Violence Prevention Program" that included a seminar to over 120 athletes, including the football team, on gender violence. Additionally, as part of the new AF-wide Commander's Inspector General (IG) program, I've asked the USAFA IG to start their review of the Mission Elements with the Athletic Department. These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures at the Air Force's Academy whose climates do not align with our institutional core values. A positive example of how the cadets are living up to the culture we expect includes a recently self-produced Cadet Athletes against Sexual Violence video. It shows our athletes making a pledge that they'll take action to stop sexual violence. I also met with the Football Leadership Council last spring and am encouraged that they are taking ownership of their team's climate. Despite all of our efforts, I expect we'll still have issues with a few young people who will make poor choices. However, I continue to pledge transparency and an emphasis on cadet development that provides the right culture and climate so that we can remain focused on the development of all 4,000 cadets and our bright future.
Below, Lamberth's letter is joined by two other documents associated with the Gazette story: the first about the house party, the second focusing on spice use. Also on hand is Claxton's charging document.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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