By Dennis Sean O’Brien
In the latest of a series of scandals to rock the Naval Academy in a week, two current and three former midshipmen have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore for conspiring to traffic in stolen cars.
The indictment alleges the five men and a civilian stole eight cars in New York, brought them to Maryland, created false ownership papers and resold six of them for $83,000 between December 1994 and February.
Two of the sales were to an undercover FBI agent, the indictment alleges.
Midshipmen Arthur R. Sherrod, 23, of Palestine, Texas, and Joe L. Smith, 23, of Annapolis; Ensign Arthur K. Brown, 23, of Pensacola, Fla.; former midshipmen Christopher T. Rounds, 27, of Baltimore, and Kenneth E. Leak, 22, of Westbury, N.Y.; and a civilian, Marcus A. Peterson, 26, of Baltimore, were indicted Wednesday for conspiring to transport, receive and sell stolen motor vehicles which traveled in interstate commerce.
The indictments followed a joint investigation between the FBI, the Maryland State Police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“Obviously we’re disappointed by all of this, but we’re going to move on,” said Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, an academy spokesman.
The academy should not be judged be the negative behavior of a small number of midshipmen, he said. Virtually all of the 4,000 students are “just great kids,” he said.
On April 4, the academy’s third-highest ranking midshipman, Scott T. Ward, was put in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va., after he contacted four female midshipmen who had accused him of sexual assault. The allegations remain under investigation.
On Tuesday, an academy freshman was arrested for allegations of sexual contact with a toddler.
Meanwhile, the military trial of one of six midshipmen accused of drug distribution continues.
“Some individuals have this perception that men and women come here anointed, fully developed mentally, physically and morally. We’re just a mere reflection of society,” Jurkowsky said.
“Society simply doesn’t have the values it did 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. “It makes our job that much harder.”
Smith was on leave pending separation from the Naval Academy when the indictment was handed down, Jurkowsky said.
Rounds and Leak were separated from the school in 1994 and 1995, respectively, he said. The Privacy Act forbids releasing the reasons they left the school, he said.
Brown, a 1995 academy graduate, had been preparing for flight school, Jurkowsky said.
“Sherrod was the only one with us,” he said.
Sherrod was also the only one officials would confirm was in custody. The Navy will not take action against him until he has received due process in civilian court, Jurkowsky said.
No trial dates have been set.
The defendants have been charged with conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
All but Smith have been charged with receiving a stolen vehicle which has traveled in interstate commerce, which could add an additional 10 years and a $250,000 fine. -30-