Accuser in Naval Academy sex assault case grilled on witness stand
WASHINGTON — Closing arguments are expected Thursday in the court-martial of a Naval Academy football player accused of sexually assaulting a fellow midshipman, following testimony Wednesday when the alleged victim acknowledged initially withholding information from investigators and asking the defendant to lie.
Midshipman Joshua Tate, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., is charged with aggravated sexual assault and three counts of making a false statement to agents who investigated the April 2012 off-campus party at which the woman believes she was assaulted. The case is being heard by a military judge, Marine Corps Col. Daniel Daugherty, at the Washington Navy Yard.
The woman, now a senior at the academy, testified that she drank heavily before and during the party and did not remember having sex with Tate. She learned later through the academy rumor mill and postings on social media that she may have been assaulted.
The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of alleged sexual assault.
On Wednesday, she said she didn’t cooperate with investigators in the months after the incident and held back information. She said she had confronted Tate and he acknowledged that the two had sex, but she was “unwilling” to tell that to investigators because she wanted the case to go away.
She said she had a change of heart after the investigation was closed, and cooperated when it was reopened.
Tate’s attorney, Jason Ehrenberg played a recording of a phone call Tate made in which the woman told him, “I hate to ask you to lie, but I don’t want this to go anywhere. ... They have no names, they have nothing.”
In the recording, Tate said it didn’t make sense to lie if investigators didn’t have his name, and that being asked to lie “ain’t cool.”
The woman told the judge she didn’t realize the recording existed until it was played at a preliminary hearing last year.
Prosecutors have attempted to prove that the alleged victim, who testified for about five hours Tuesday and Wednesday, was so drunk she couldn’t have consented to having sex with Tate in a car outside the “football house” party.
Tate’s attorneys have tried to show that although the woman had been drinking, she was able to talk, walk and understand what was going on.
Tate did not testify during the court-martial. If found guilty, he faces up to 30 years in prison for the assault charge and five years for each false statement charge.
Eight other midshipmen testified, offering varied accounts of how much the alleged victim drank and how she acted at the party. Midshipman Eric Graham, who was initially charged in the case but later had those charges dropped, said he was in a car with the alleged victim and she did not seem to be incapacitated.
Attorneys also entered a statement from another football player initially accused, Tra’ves Bush, now an ensign in the Navy. The statement described conversations Bush said he had with the woman in a hallway and a bedroom.
A defense expert, Dr. Thomas Grieger, said he thought the alleged victim was able to make decisions because, according to testimony, she could walk, talk, dance, hold conversations and make jokes at different times during the party.
At the end of Wednesday’s session, Daugherty said that if he finds Tate not guilty of assault, he’ll send the false statement charges back to the academy. He called them “add-on” charges and noted that others who had been accused of lying had their cases handled within the academy’s disciplinary system, not in court.