Politics & Government

Trump administration hires Citadel grad plagued by accusations of sexual assault

A Citadel graduate and former class president hired by the Trump Administration this year was the target of at least five sexual abuse allegations by fellow male students at the Charleston school
A Citadel graduate and former class president hired by the Trump Administration this year was the target of at least five sexual abuse allegations by fellow male students at the Charleston school Observer file

A Citadel graduate hired by the Trump Administration to fill a State Department post was accused by five male students at the Charleston school with sexual assault.

Steven Munoz, who joined the State Department on Jan. 25, was never criminally charged in any of the complaints. But after conducting its own investigation, The Citadel banned the former class president and student Republican leader from its campus, according to ProPublica, which first reported the story.

The charges were made by five freshman male students, traditionally known at The Citadel as “knobs.” They accused Munoz of using his authority as a student leader to threaten them to comply with his sexual advances and remain silent about them afterward. School leaders eventually confronted Munoz about one of the allegations but gave him only a warning, according to the story.

Later, when more students came forward with complaints, the school decided that “certain assaults likely occurred,” ProPublica reported.

Most of the allegations surfaced after Munoz graduated in 2011, when The Citadel gave him an award for “leadership, sound character and service to others.” The citation also said Munoz “always could be counted upon to help classmates who need assistance and to mentor younger cadets adjusting to life at The Citadel.” According to ProPublica, the first student came forward in 2010.

The alleged assaults took place at a faculty member’s home, an off-campus apartment and during trips to Republican Society meetings or the Conservative Political Action Conference.

In one case, an accuser said he pushed Munoz’s hand away when the upperclassman reached into his underwear. He said Munoz told him “I had to learn how to trust other leaders on the team and this was how I should show him I trusted him.”

All five students interviewed by state investigators were willing to press charges, the story says. A week after getting the 200-page file in 2013, Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said in a letter to police that the case lacked sufficient evidence.

Munoz referred questions to prominent Charleston attorney Andy Savage. According to ProPublica, Savage described the allegations as “exaggerated claims” by “disgruntled cadets” of Munoz’s participation in “boorish behavior that was historically tacitly approved, if not encouraged, by the institution.”

In 2012, Savage told the Charleston Post and Courier that Munoz had been singled out by the mother of one of his accusers because she did not like Munoz’s conservative politics.

The State Department declined comment, and the White House did not respond to requests for information, ProPublica said.

Researcher Maria David contributed.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

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