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Senators call for investigation into AFA sex assaults

August 23, 2014 Updated: August 23, 2014 at 10:28 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 case of a cadet informant and the agent who handled his tips could face an investigation from the federal Office of Special Counsel under a request from two senators.

The review would determine 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 this month.

"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," reads the request to the whistleblower protection agency from Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The independent Office of Special Counsel protects federal whistleblowers and investigates and prosecutes violations of federal employee rights.

Skip Morgan, a Colorado Springs attorney representing Thomas and Enos, couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

The Air Force Academy on Friday said the claims of Enos and Thomas have been investigated. An Inspector General's report made public in March concluded that Thomas was rightfully dismissed from the academy for misconduct.

"Numerous reviews have been conducted related to these allegations," the academy said. "These reviews, coupled with external oversight and inspections from multiple agencies all conclude USAFA appropriately handles sexual assault cases. We have confidence that any additional investigation will confirm the results of these previous reviews."

The academy is conducting its investigation into athletics. The school's superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, this month called for an Inspector General review of athletic programs at the school to see if they comply with the academy's values.

At the center of the investigations is a Dec. 2, 2011, party in Manitou Springs. Thomas told Enos in confidential source reports that athletes and other cadets at the party used date-rape drugs to incapacitate women for sexual assault.

Acting on that and other tips, OSI ran a dragnet that investigated the activities of 32 cadets, including 16 football players and several other athletes. While the inquiry started with the party, the investigation was wide ranging and uncovered questionable conduct before and after the event.

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.

A half-dozen more cadets resigned. Three more cadets were kicked out for unrelated misconduct.

Of the 16 football players investigated, seven graduated.

Enos claims former academy Superintendent Michael Gould wouldn't let investigators talk to football coaches about allegations of sexual assault and drug use, The Associated Press reported. Gould, who retired from the academy last year, has denied wrongdoing.

Protect our Defenders, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for military victims of sexual assault, praised Thune and Gillibrand for requesting an outside investigation.

"We applaud Senators Gillibrand and Thune for recognizing the need for an independent investigation into these alarming allegations of misconduct at the Academy and retaliation by academy leaders towards those who have sought to expose it," the group said.

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