U.S. Naval Academy sex-assault accuser asked about inconsistencies

by Reuters
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:12 GMT

(Adds football player witness, paragraphs 9-10)

By Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - A female U.S. Naval Academy midshipman testified on Wednesday that she had been torn about pursuing allegations that a fellow student sexually assaulted her in April 2012 when she was drunk at an off-campus party.

"Openly, yes, I wanted it (the investigation) to close. Internally, I didn't," the 22-year-old woman said in response to questions from a lawyer for former Academy football player Joshua Tate on the second day of her testimony at Tate's court-martial.

Tate's lawyer, Jason Ehrenburg, played a recording of a phone conversation between Tate and the woman discussing the Navy investigation, in which she said, "I don't want this to go anywhere."

Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault victims.

The woman, now a senior at the elite service school in Annapolis, Maryland, later took part in television interviews in which she discussed the assault allegations.

Ehrenburg also questioned the woman about inconsistencies in her cooperation with investigators.

The woman said she had concealed from Navy investigators how much alcohol she drank during the party at a house.

Tate's defense team also tried to nail down what the woman remembered, or did not remember, about the night she says she was attacked by Tate. Prosecutors contend she was too drunk to take part in sex willingly, while Tate's lawyers say it was consensual.

Midshipman Eric Graham, another former football player who had been charged in the case, testified for the prosecution that he saw Tate and the woman outside the house in a parked car, where investigators suspect the assault took place.

Charges against Graham were dismissed in January, largely because Navy investigators failed to read him his rights. Graham, of Eight Mile, Alabama, testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution.

Tate, a senior from Nashville, Tennessee, is accused of aggravated sexual assault and making false official statements. He has opted for trial by a judge rather than a jury.

Authorities decided not to proceed against another football player also investigated over the suspected assault.

Tate's trial is the latest in a series of cases that have highlighted sexual assault in the U.S. military.

The Defense Department said in December that there were slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults across the armed forces in the fiscal year through October, up about 50 percent from the previous year.

Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller denied in a January hearing that he was under pressure to go ahead with prosecution even though his legal counsel and a military judge had advised him not to proceed. (Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool)

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