Decision could come Thursday in U.S. Naval Academy sex-assault case

by Reuters
Thursday, 20 March 2014 15:19 GMT

By Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - A decision in the court-martial of a former U.S. Naval Academy football player accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman when she was drunk could come as soon as 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) on Thursday, the judge said.

Judge Marine Colonel Daniel Daugherty heard closing arguments Thursday morning in the trial of Midshipman Joshua Tate, a senior from Nashville, Tennessee.

Tate is accused of assaulting the 22-year-old woman at an alcohol-fueled off-campus party in April 2012. The trial, one of a spate of sexual misconduct cases roiling the U.S. military, has largely centered on whether the accuser was too drunk to consent to have sex.

Three U.S. Naval Academy football players were initially accused but Tate was the only one to be court-martialed. Charges against the other two were dropped.

The woman, also a senior at the elite service school in Annapolis, Maryland, testified that she had been torn about cooperating with Navy investigators about the sexual assault allegations and had concealed from them how much alcohol she had drunk.

She has contended she was too drunk to remember having sex and only learned about the encounter the next day through social media and classmates. Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault victims.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Navy Commander Art Record said, "She made her decision and she did what she wanted to do."

But prosecuting attorney Lieutenant Commander Phil Hamon said the woman was too drunk to "make that competent decision to have sex."

Tate is accused of aggravated sexual assault and making false official statements.

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.

Also on Thursday, a one-star U.S. Army general who had pleaded guilty to mistreating a junior female officer during an adulterous sexual affair was reprimanded by a military judge who ordered him to forfeit $20,000 in pay over four months. (Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)

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