Court martial focuses on what happened after night of drinking
Two days before Halloween 2010, a female Air Force staff sergeant visited a co-worker and his family in South Carolina for the weekend. Preparing for a night out with friends, the woman dressed in an all-black biker costume. At a bar, she and others in the group drank shots of liquor, danced with strangers and sang karaoke.
After the group returned to the house late that night, the staff sergeant went upstairs and started getting ready for bed. Then, Coast Guard Petty Officer Sheldon Bond — her co-worker’s brother-in-law — came into her room.
At a Coast Guard court martial Monday, neither side disputed the above events. The point of contention is what happened after Bond entered the small, pastel-colored bedroom.
The prosecution says Bond sneaked into the room and forced himself on her while she was asleep. The defense says she invited him in, had consensual sex and claimed rape later because she regretted it.
The trial convened in a large conference room on the fourth floor of the Coast Guard’s 7th District Headquarters in downtown Miami. A seven-member jury — six men, one woman — includes three officers and four senior enlisted Coast Guardsmen.
Some jury members looked down as the alleged victim described Bond’s approaching her earlier in the night at the bar and groping her. She moved away, she said, and tried to forget about what happened.
Later, she said, she woke in the middle of the night with her pants around her knees and Bond pinning her down. He pushed her bra and shirt up to her neck, she said.
“He was trying to kiss my neck and my ear,” she said. “I couldn’t push him away from me because he had leverage.”
The woman said she was unable to defend herself because she was still drunk. She sobbed while sharing her graphic testimony, saying he forced her to have sex with him as she tried to distract him and push him off. She was a trained victim advocate and assault prevention instructor, she said. She should have known better than to get so drunk, she said.
“I just felt stupid and panicked and scared,” she said.
Bond has been charged with rape, wrongful sexual contact and adultery (the adultery charge is because he was married and it’s a crime in the military to have sex with someone other than your spouse). If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum term of life in prison and dishonorably discharged.
The woman said she was afraid to report the alleged rape after it happened because of the potential social fallout.
Once she left the Air Force and became a civilian, she asked for advice on whether to report what happened, she said. When she asked a friend how to proceed in early 2013, she said she didn’t realize he was required to notify the Air Force. An investigation ensued.
Defense attorney Navy Lt. Matthew Kozyra argued that the woman’s story has changed since she reported the alleged rape. Additionally, Kozyra said, she didn’t cry out for help that night and spent time with Bond and his family the next day.
“You could have said that your grandmother had died or your dog was sick,” he told her during cross-examination. “You could have come up with a reason to leave.”
She insisted that she was scared, hung over and blamed herself for allowing it to happen.
The defense said the woman’s complaint against Bond was the fifth sexual harassment or assault claim she had made since 2007.
Attorneys for both sides have subpoenaed Sprint network text messages and are trying to subpoena Facebook messages between the accused and the alleged victim that continued for three months after the alleged rape. The Coast Guard judge presiding over the trial said she expects it to end by Thursday.