U.S. Naval Academy sex-assault accuser grilled over inconsistencies

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 19, 2014 11:13 AM

By Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A defense attorney on Wednesday grilled a female U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student, about inconsistencies in her cooperation with investigators.

In a second day of testimony in former Academy football player Joshua Tate's court-martial, the 22-year-old woman said she had been torn about pursuing her allegations that Tate sexually assaulted her in April 2012 when she was heavily drunk at a party.

"Openly, yes, I wanted it (the investigation) to close. Internally, I didn't," she said, responding to a question from Jason Ehrenburg, Tate's attorney.

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."

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

Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault victims.

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

Tate's defense team also tried to nail down what the woman remembered, or didn't remember, about the night of the alleged attack. Prosecutors contend she was too drunk to take part in sex willingly, while Tate's attorneys say it was consensual.

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 two other football players 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 Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)