A U.S. Naval Academy student was found not guilty of sexual assault and obstruction of justice charges at a court-martial Friday, according to academy officials.
Midshipman 1st Class Michael Wallace, 23, faced the charges in connection with an alleged incident involving a Navy reservist in Pensacola, Florida, in March 2018.
After the week-long trial, a panel of Navy and Marine Corps officers deliberated for about seven hours before delivering their verdict, according to Antoinette O’Neill, Wallace’s civilian attorney.
“The military takes allegations of sexual assault more seriously than anywhere else, but when they also ensure throughout the process that the presumption of innocence is preserved, you have proof of a fair system,” she said in an email to Navy Times. “In this case, fairness and justice succeeded.”
Wallace testified at the trial, O’Neill said.
He was slated to graduate with the class of 2018, but his graduation was held up as the case proceeded, according to academy spokeswoman Jenny Erickson.
The academy’s superintendent still needs to review the trial and issue a promulgating order, which validates the court’s findings, she said.
Erickson said she could not speculate on the final status of Wallace until the record is finalized, which should take place in the next few weeks.
Wallace was a 2018 member of the Trident Scholar Program, an elite program whose alumni include Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
The program allows “exceptionally capable students” in the top 15 percent of their class to engage in independent study and research during their senior year, according to the academy’s website.
A native of Taylor, Michigan, and the Academics Officer for the academy’s 12th Company, Wallace had been named a Schwarzman Scholar in late 2017 and was scheduled to pursue a graduate degree in China.
After completing the program, he was supposed to report to Nuclear Power School in Charleston, South Carolina, to enter the training pipeline to join the submarine force, according to the Naval Academy.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.