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Defense Department IG investigating AFA's handling of athlete misconduct probe

December 3, 2014 Updated: December 3, 2014 at 4:17 am
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photo - Air Force Academy football players walk into their practice facility Thursday, July 31, 2014 for the first day of football practice for the 2014 season. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Air Force Academy football players walk into their practice facility Thursday, July 31, 2014 for the first day of football practice for the 2014 season. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

The Defense Department's Inspector General is probing how the Air Force Academy handled an investigation into misconduct by members of the football team, the Pentagon has confirmed.

A memo released Tuesday says investigators will determine whether "criminal investigations, to include sexual assault, involving USAFA football players met investigative standards." The IG's office also will determine whether there were any barriers into the academy's investigations into allegations about player conduct.

That's similar to what a pair of senators demanded after a Gazette investigation revealed player misconduct in the Air Force Academy's athletic program. The investigation would examine whether Office of Special Investigations agent Brandon Enos and former cadet Eric Thomas faced retaliation for uncovering misconduct at the school, including sexual assaults by athletes.

The work of Thomas and Enos was uncovered in a Gazette investigation last year that examined whether Thomas was kicked out of the school for his work as an informant. Enos was a key figure in Operation Gridiron, exposed in a Gazette investigation into athlete misconduct in August.

"We are especially concerned by Staff Sgt. Enos' allegations that he was retaliated against by his superiors for his forceful efforts to investigate sex assaults committed by members of the USAFA football team," said an August letter from Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The Defense Department memo dated Oct. 21 was released Tuesday with a summary of November actions taken by the Pentagon inspector general.

The Pentagon inquiry is the highest level of investigation in the military and generally signals high-level interest in a case.

No timeline has been given for when the inquiry might be completed.

A spokeswoman for the Inspector General didn't return phone messages.

Historically, the Pentagon has made Inspector General reports public.

It's the second recent inquiry into the workings of the academy's athletic department.

In August, academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson ordered an internal review of athletes to determine if they conformed to the school's values. The academy gave its athletic program a passing grade in the review.

The academy pledged to cooperate with the Pentagon investigation.

"The United States Air Force Academy is aware that the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will conduct an evaluation of criminal investigations which previously occurred at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The academy was notified in October that this action would take place," the academy said in an email. "The United States Air Force Academy will fully participate in this evaluation and look forward to the results. We remain focused on fostering an environment that reinforces a culture of respect and a climate of commitment to Air Force core values and the Nation."

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

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