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A sergeant first class on the staff of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., faces charges of allegedly filming numerous female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were in the shower, according to the Army.
The suspect, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon, faces charges under four articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline. He faces 35 specifications in all.
McClendon, who has been assigned to the school since 2009, was transferred to Fort Drum after charges were filed May 14, Army officials said.
At West Point, McClendon served as a tactical noncommissioned officer, a staff adviser responsible for the health, welfare and discipline of a company of 125 cadets. The person in the position is expected to “assist each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs,” according to the West Point website.
The Army did not announce the charges against McClendon, which were first reported by The New York Times. The newspaper’s report said it “learned of the inquiry from several current and former members of the West Point community who said they were alarmed by the allegations and wanted to learn of the academy’s plans to investigate and prevent future violations.”
McClendon is alleged to have been in possession of computer files of images of nude cadets, according to a charge sheet obtained by Army Times. The names of the alleged victims were redacted.
Between July 2009 and May 2012, McClendon allegedly made images and videos of a number of women’s exposed bodies, though it is unclear where and how each of the images were created. McClendon, in at least some cases, is alleged to have entered a women’s bathroom without announcing himself to film women as they were coming and going from the shower.
Some details of the allegations remain unclear. Citing official sources, The New York Times reported that some images may have been taken consensually, complicating the inquiry. The charge sheets, however, indicate each of the images was allegedly obtained by McClendon without consent.
The allegations at West Point are the latest in a string of cases that have angered officials in the military and Congress over reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.
“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point — as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said May 22. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”
The Army Criminal Investigation Division is contacting the alleged victims and keeping them updated on the case, George Wright, an Army spokesman, told Army Times. Throughout this notification process, the Army will protect the privacy of those involved, he said.
The service is committed to “providing the full range of support to those whose privacy was violated,” Wright said. “We will work toward ensuring that the military justice system works through to its proper conclusion.”
McClendon joined the Army in 1990 and trained as a combat engineer. He deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2009, and was awarded a Bronze Star.