An Army sergeant at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets in the shower, a defense official said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of sex-related incidents that has rocked the military.
Sergeant Michael McClendon was charged this month with four violations of U.S. military law: indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline, Army spokesman George Wright said.
Wright said McClendon was being investigated for possession of inappropriate images taken without consent. He did not elaborate.
The New York Times, which initially reported the incident, said the pictures included female cadets in the shower, which a defense official confirmed on condition of anonymity.
"The Army has notified those involved and offered support services at their individual locations," Wright said. "It appears to be at least a dozen or more alleged victims who may have been photographed without their consent."
McClendon, who had served at the prestigious military academy in New York since 2009, was transferred to Fort Drum in New York after the charges were filed on May 14, Wright said.
McClendon served as a tactical noncommissioned officer at the academy, a job that put him in charge of mentoring and training a company of about 121 cadets, focusing on leadership development and other responsibilities.
General John Campbell, the Army's vice chief of staff, said the service moved to address the situation at West Point as soon as the problem was reported.
"Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable," he said.
The report of charges against McClendon follows a spate of sex-related incidents that have embarrassed the U.S. military and prompted members of Congress to introduce legislation designed to toughen up the Pentagon's handling of sex crimes.
A study released by the Defense Department two weeks ago estimated that incidents of unwanted sexual contact in the military, from groping to rape, rose 37 percent in 2012, to about 26,000 cases from 19,000 the previous year.
The report was released just days after Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, who led the Air Force sexual assault prevention effort, was charged with sexual battery involving a civilian woman in a parking lot not far from the Pentagon.
Several days later a U.S. Army sergeant who worked as a sexual assault prevention coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, was accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact and assault.
Lawmakers in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are moving ahead with steps to toughen the military's response to sex-related crimes and provide better treatment for victims.
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