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Air Force Academy cadet who spearheaded rape-prevention effort charged in sexual assault

JESSICA BIDWELL/STARS AND STRIPES

By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 21, 2017

An Air Force Academy cadet lauded for his work with rape prevention programs was the defendant Wednesday in a sexual assault hearing that could lead to his court-martial.

Senior cadet Steven Fox is accused of assaulting the Colorado Springs man he took as a date to an academy dance in 2015. Charging papers accuse Fox of penetrating the man with a finger without his consent and rubbing himself against the man's leg for sexual gratification.

A conviction on the charges could bring a 20-year prison term.

Prosecutors offered an investigative report and video interviews with Fox and his accuser at the hearing, where an investigating officer worked to determine if there's enough evidence to court-martial him.

"There is reasonable belief that cadet Fox committed the offenses he is charged with," prosecutor Lt. Olivia Hoff told the hearing officer, Maj. Joseph Smiga.

Fox defense attorney Capt. Joseph Groff contended that the cadet acted with consent amid an ongoing romance with his date at the dance, a student from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

"This case falls short," Groff said.

The case is a landmark of sorts at the academy, as the first of its kind involving homosexual acts since the 2011 repeal of the military's ban on gays.

Until the repeal, any sexual act between men could have resulted in a sodomy charge under military law.

The Pentagon has worked since the repeal to get male victims to report sexual assault, a group that officials say is still reluctant to come forward.

Fox, who entered the academy after the repeal, was known at the school for his efforts to get men to report sexual assaults. Groff gave Smiga award paperwork praising Fox for his sexual assault prevention efforts, which included joining in a theatrical production to highlight the concerns of male rape victims.

"He has been committed to appropriate sexual conduct," Groff said.

Hoff pointed to statements made by both Fox and his alleged victim after Air Force investigators began examining the incident last year. Neither denied the dorm room sex, but the alleged victim said Fox persisted after he was asked to stop.

"It is reason to believe that Fox did not gain consent,"

Smiga will issue a report to academy bosses, who will rule on whether Fox merits court-martial.

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©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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