WASHINGTON — A Naval Academy midshipman charged with sexually assaulting a classmate chose a trial by judge instead of a jury as his court-martial began at the Washington Navy Yard Friday morning.
Midshipman Joshua Tate had a "change of heart," said his civilian attorney, Jason Ehrenberg.
"Sir, he would like to go judge alone," Ehrenberg told the judge, Marine Corps Col. Daniel Daugherty.
Daugherty asked Tate a series of questions to ensure he understood his decision. Then Daugherty dismissed the potential jurors, who did not appear in court.
Tate is charged with aggravated sexual assault and making false official statements.
The jury — called a "panel" in the military justice system — was to be comprised of Navy and Marine Corps officers who are stationed in the Washington, D.C. region.
Daugherty had ordered that the pool of potential panel members be drawn from outside of the academy, as would normally be the case, because of the intense focus on the case and the issue of sexual assault in the military.
Government prosecutors allege that Tate had sexual contact with a female classmate who was so drunk she was unable to consent. They also allege that he changed the story he gave to Navy investigators.
The charges stem from an off-campus party in April 2012. Three midshipman, all members of the football team at the time, initially were accused of sexually assaulting the woman.
Formal charges were not filed against one midshipman, who has graduated and is now an ensign in the Navy.
Charges were dropped against another midshipman after the case was weakened when the judge threw out key statements. He is in the process of withdrawing from the academy and is a witness in the case against Tate.
The alleged victim remains enrolled at the academy and is expected to testify.
The court-martial is expected to last at least several days.