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Naval Academy midshipman asks judge to block his removal over tweets

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Chase Standage, a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman facing expulsion over social media posts, sees himself as a casualty of a campus “culture war." Academy leaders say the damage to his military career was self-inflicted.

An academy official recommended disenrolling the white midshipman for tweeting a flurry of crude messages, including one in which he said Breonna Taylor received “justice” on the day police in Louisville, Ky., killed the Black woman during a drug raid.

But a federal judge in Maryland ultimately could decide whether the 21-year-old California native has a future as a naval officer and pilot. U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander didn't immediately rule on Friday after presiding over a hearing on Standage’s request for a court order allowing him to finish his senior year and graduate.

The judge said Standage's posts were “distasteful at best” and demonstrated poor judgment, but she questioned why he faces “the most draconian sanction he could get” when the academy explicitly permits midshipmen to express their personal opinions on social media.

“It appears that people in charge didn't like his point of view. Not the way he said it but what he said,” Hollander said.

Standage sued to block his separation from the academy, claiming it violated his First Amendment right to freely express his views. His lawsuit also claims academy leaders violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process, denying him a fair and impartial disciplinary hearing. He is accused of violating academy rules governing political activity and of engaging in conduct unbecoming a midshipman.

Hollander expressed doubt that she will rule before the academy’s semester ends on Dec. 12. She previously ruled that Standage could remain at the academy while his lawsuit is pending.

“This case is the kind of case that keeps you up at night when you're a judge,” she said.

The son of two Los Angeles Police Department officers, Standage says he feared for their safety during the week in June when he posted the tweets in question.

“Why is it taking so long for Breonna Taylor to receive her justice?” a Twitter user posted in June.

“Her justice was received on March 13, 2020,” Standage replied, referring to the day of the deadly raid.

Academy investigators also singled out several other tweets in which Standage advocated using lethal force against civilians.

“All it takes is one drone strike,” he tweeted in response to another user's post about “antifa extremists” in Seattle.

Standage posted under the username “Cheese Sandwich” and didn't identify himself as a midshipman in the posts.

 

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