AP, July 15, 2006
New London — A Coast Guard Academy graduate and former officer who is now a federal judge has asked the NAACP to investigate the conviction of a black cadet last month, claiming it is an example of “rampant” racial discrimination at the academy.
“Racial prejudice is still very much alive at the academy,” London Steverson wrote in a letter to NAACP chairman Julian Bond earlier this week.
Steverson, a 1968 graduate of the academy, was assigned to lead the Coast Guard’s then-newly formed minority recruiting section in the 1970s. During his tenure, he recruited more than 50 black cadets to the academy. Before that only four black officers, including Steverson, had graduated from the school.
Cadet Webster Smith, 23, of Houston, was acquitted last month of a charge of rape but convicted on five lesser charges, including extorting a female classmate to provide him with sexual favors.
Smith is now serving a six-month prison sentence after being convicted of extortion, sodomy, indecent assault, leaving his post without permission and attempting to disobey an order.
Steverson’s letter claims that “Smith is a victim of jealousy, racial discrimination, a violation of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection clause, and last but not least, a victim of a double standard.”