Is he a rapist or a pawn in a military game to discredit the Air Force Academy sex scandal? For the first time, Douglas Meester answers the charges.
One week later, Roche demoted Gen. Dallagher from three stars to two. Dallagher's interim replacement, Gen. Weida, decided to court-martial Meester.
"I had faith that the Air Force would do the right thing and dismiss [Jacqueline's] claim," says Meester's father, Doug Sr., sitting on the couch next to his son. "But I don't anymore. I don't think they care about justice; this court-martial is about PR and politics. All the academy wants is a pound of flesh to cover their ass."
It's the sort of thing you might expect a father in this situation to say. But Jacqueline Woods' mother, Marie, has an equally cynical take on the unprecedented court-martial. "The academy doesn't care about my daughter," she told me as we talked in her home outside Philadelphia. (Jacqueline refused to be interviewed for this story, but she sat in the next room as I talked to her mother.) "I've believed all along that academy brass and Secretary Roche got together and talked about this case and what they could do to make themselves and the Air Force Academy look good. I think they want to put her on the stand and have her raked over the coals and peel back her skin. They think that if they can discredit [Jacqueline], they can discredit all the other girls who have reported being raped."
Air Force cadets get one of the best college educations taxpayer money can buy; in return, graduates serve as officers for at least five years. It works the same way at the other three U.S. service academies - the Army's West Point, the Navy's Annapolis, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. And, like the students who are accepted to those institutions, Air Force cadets are some of the best students American high schools have to offer. The 1,052 men and 224 women who entered the academy last fall as the class of 2007 had an average high school GPA of 3.9 and an average SAT score of 1,290. Sixty-six percent were members of the National Honor Society, 96 percent played at least one varsity sport, and 10 percent were student-body presidents. The majority choose the Air Force Academy because they want to fly. Meester and Woods chose the school for other reasons.
Meester enrolled with the class of '05 searching for stability. When he was five years old, his folks divorced, and throughout his teen years, he began dividing his time and emotions while coping with the usual adolescent pressures. In high school, he enjoyed the kind of pursuits that impose order on the universe: science and math classes, the chess and debate teams, and drilling with his high school ROTC program. The summer after his sophomore year, Meester attended a science camp at the academy and was immediately impressed by the aeronautics-heavy curriculum and the program's spit-and-polish certainty. "I thought it was a prestigious, clear-cut, no-BS kind of place," he says. "If you stick to it, you know exactly the path you can go. There's no chance. No ambiguity as to what it is you're going to do with yourself."
Woods came to Colorado Springs because her brother Josh had raved about the academy and because she wanted to be with her boyfriend. After Josh left for the academy, the Woods volunteered as host family for academy prep students who were attending a local military high school. One day, the Woods had some preppers over for pizza and a movie, and while Top Gun played on the television, 14-year-old Jacqueline and 18-year-old prepper Zeke Cuny flirted their way into a romance. Because the academy prohibits fraternization of cadets in different classes, when Woods entered the academy she and Cuny pledged to stop dating until after Cuny graduated.