Attorney Asks Judge To Allow Midshipmen To Graduate Despite Harassment Probe

KINGS POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Attorneys for four midshipmen from the United States Merchant Marine Academy appeared in court Wednesday, after the midshipmen were told they may not graduate this weekend due to abuse allegations.

A total of seven midshipmen are being barred from the graduation, all from a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy soccer team.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, the midshipmen are accused of sexual abuse on a bus this past fall. The incident came to light recently.

The four midshipmen, their attorney Michael Cassell said, were not given the charges against them and had no time to prepare a defense. Instead, Cassell said the men were just told they may not graduate on Saturday because they are accused in the abuse incident and there is a federal investigation.

“My clients are obviously frustrated with the situation, and not happy with the situation, which is why we had to commence the lawsuit,” Cassell said.

But an assistant U.S. attorney said the fur are accused of behavior and honor violations and indeed should not be allowed to graduate.

A judge set another hearing for Thursday afternoon. The judge asked the U.S. attorney to think about letting the four graduate under the condition that if they are found guilty, they will have to give their diplomas back to the academy.

Newsday first reported the academy’s superintendent, Rear Admiral James Helis, sent an email to students and faculty last week about the suspension.

The probe is being conducted by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the academy’s overseer.

Last year, a program that places academy midshipmen on commercial vessels was temporary suspended amid concerns about sexual abuse and harassment.

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