By Lacey Johnson
WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Charges have been dropped against a former U.S. Naval Academy football player who was accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman, the school said on Friday.
Eric Graham, 23, of Eight Mile, Alabama, was among three Academy football players charged with the assault, one of a spate of sexual misconduct allegations involving the U.S. military. Charges against another player were dropped earlier.
Graham, a senior at the elite school, had been charged with abusive sexual contact. He was scheduled to face a court-martial this month.
Navy prosecutors submitted a request on Thursday to the academy's superintendent, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, to have the charges dropped. Lawyers for both sides were notified on Friday that the request had been approved.
A "major determining factor" in the prosecutors' decision was a ruling by a military judge not to permit statements Graham made to be used as evidence because Navy investigators failed to read him his rights, according to academy spokesman Commander John Schofield.
Ryan Guilds, one of the woman's lawyers, said: "We understand that at the end of the day, this is a technicality.
"Mr. Graham was lucky enough to not have investigators read him his Miranda rights."
Graham's lawyer, Chip Herrington, had no immediate comment about the charges being dropped.
Graham and two other football players were charged with sexually assaulting the woman in April 2012 at an alcohol-fueled off-campus party in Annapolis, Maryland, the site of the school.
The woman testified at an Article 32 hearing, held to determine if trial was warranted, that she drank heavily at the party and remembered little of what happened. Reuters does not generally report the names of sexual assault victims.
Charges against one of the men, Tra'ves Bush, of Johnston, South Carolina, were dropped in October following the Article 32 hearing.
The third man, Joshua Tate, a junior from Nashville, Tennessee, is scheduled to appear in court in February on a charge of aggravated sexual assault.
He and Graham also faced a charge of making false statements.
Lawyers for Graham and Tate plan to question Miller's decision to court-martial their clients in a judicial hearing on Monday in Washington.
Defense attorneys have argued that Miller rejected advice from his legal counsel and a military judge to drop the cases because he was facing political and media pressure.
The Defense Department said last month that there were slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults across the U.S. military in the 2013 fiscal year, up about 50 percent from the year before. The fiscal year starts in October.
A study released in May by the Pentagon estimated that reports of unwanted sexual contact, a wider category, rose to about 26,000 cases in 2012 from 19,000 in 2011.
President Barack Obama signed reforms into law last month that includes stripping commanders of their power to overturn sentences that result from court-martials. (Editing by Ian Simpson, Cynthia Osterman and Andre Grenon)
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