This story has been updated with the news that Horne and Vaughn have waived their rights to an Article 32 hearing.
Two seniors at the Air Force Academy could be court-martialed for their role in a hazing scandal involving the men’s swim team.
The academy said in a Thursday release that Cadet 1st Class Lars Knutson and Cadet 1st Class Michael Hannigan were each charged Sept. 6 with one specification alleging violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or dereliction of duty, by “wrongfully and willfully fail[ing] to refrain from engaging in activities that constituted hazing" on or about Sept. 29, 2017.
They also were each charged with one specification of violating Article 81 of the UCMJ, conspiring with other cadets to commit dereliction of duty on several occasions during September 2017, and Article 134 by allegedly trying to wrongfully impede the hazing investigation by influencing other cadets' statements to investigators from the Office of Special Investigations during December 2017 and January 2018.
Knutson on Sept. 28 will face an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, to determine whether probable cause exists to support the charges and proceed with a court-martial. Hannigan’s Article 32 will be held Oct. 3.
According to redacted charge sheets provided by the academy, Knutson, Hannigan and 10 other unidentified upperclassmen allegedly “wrongfully and willfully planned, coordinated and attended the hazing event known as the ‘Chunker’" last Sept. 29.
The Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper on Thursday reported that according to the investigative file, new freshmen swim team members were instructed to eat as much pasta as they could during a dinner at Olive Garden. The freshmen were then blindfolded and driven to the woods, where they were made to drink large quantities of milk, eat foods such as jello with mustard, and run until they vomited, the Gazette reported.
The Gazette also reported that the seniors then began to strip and blindfolded the freshmen again, before the seniors put their clothes back on and told the freshmen it was a joke. The Gazette said no one alleged sexual acts took place as part of the initiation ritual.
In February, the academy removed 11 men’s swimmers from competition due to the hazing investigation. In a June interview, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the academy’s superintendent, said some of those swimmers were pulled in the middle of a swim meet once it became apparent what they may have done.
“It’s a privilege to wear Air Force on your jersey or your swim cap,” Silveria said at the time.
Silveria also said that he had banned an unofficial men’s swim team organization called Phi-K-S that allegedly took part in the improper initiation ceremony.
Academy spokeswoman Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko said the school has no record of ever previously court-martialing a cadet for hazing. However, she said it’s possible a cadet in the past was charged with another crime as a result of hazing, similar to the way Knutson and Hannigan were charged with dereliction of duty.
The academy also said Cadet 2nd Class Daven Horne was charged Aug. 23 with two specifications of violating Article 112a, for allegedly wrongfully using marijuana and cocaine in May and June 2018.
Then, on Aug. 30, Cadet 2nd Class Harry Vaughn was charged with one specification of violating Article 112a, for allegedly wrongfully using cocaine between April 12 and April 16, and one specification of violating Article 107, for allegedly knowingly making a false statement with the intent to deceive an investigator. According to the charge sheet provided by the academy, Vaughn allegedly lied when he told a security forces investigator in May that he ate food from a man he didn’t know at a night club, which may have caused him to test positive for cocaine. That statement “was totally false,” and Vaughn knew it was false, the charge sheet alleges.
Horne and Vaughn have waived their rights to an Article 32 hearing, the academy said.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.