Jewish World Review May 20, 2003 / 18 Iyar, 5763

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Consumer Reports

A life in jail for 'conduct unbecoming'!? | Last Friday, Air Force Academy cadet Douglas Meester was accused of rape, sodomy, and conduct unbecoming an officer, after a drunken sexual encounter with another student. But I wonder, should a young man face a lifetime in prison when both he and the woman involved were too drunk to remember what happened that night?

On October 18th, a female cadet went to cadet Meester's room to drink with him and a friend. She says she consumed at least six shots of tequila, including three body shots, which involved her licking salt off of cadet Meester's body. Meester was also drinking heavily.

Both sides have testified that Meester and the woman were drunk. She says they began kissing in a back room, "He began kissing me," she said under oath, "and I responded, I kissed back." They ultimately had sex. The woman says she was unconscious at times, but also says she talked to Meester while they were having sex, never once telling him to stop.

She has testified that her behavior, the reciprocal kissing and the body shots, may have been seen as an invitation to sexual intimacy by Meester. And again, she testified under oath that she never told Meester she didn't want to have sex. But now she's accused Meester of rape.

Why? Only she knows. But while cadet Meester's behavior certainly qualifies as conduct unbecoming, does it amount to rape?

This past year, the United States Air Force Academy was rocked by allegations from dozens of women, saying that they were reprimanded or ostracized when they reported being raped by other students. Heads rolled at the academy, and for good reason.

But before the guillotine lops off Mr. Meester's head, the academy had best slow down and make sure don't make up for past mistakes, by committing another. Nailing this young man for rape under these circumstances may not be justice. It may be the type of witch-hunt that Barbara Boxer and Pat Schroder conducted a decade ago during the Tailhook scandal.

Meester should be expelled from the academy, not face a lifetime in jail.

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