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NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans-based Coast Guard petty officer accused of sexually assaulting a Coast Guardswoman will face a court-martial in federal court next year.

The Coast Guard said Thursday that the charges against Petty Officer 3rd Class Joe D. Newmans stem from an Nov. 29, 2012, incident, in which he is accused of raping a female colleague inside a New Orleans residence. The victim, whose identity has not been released, reported the incident to the Coast Guard the next day, and Newmans was administratively reassigned.

Newmans has been a petty officer in the Coast Guard for four years and is currently assigned to the Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, according to spokeswoman Lt. Lily Zepeda.

The Times-Picayune reports the Coast Guard conducted a nine-month investigation into the allegations. Rear Adm. Kevin S. Cook, commander of the Coast Guard's 8th District, recommended a court-martial after an Oct. 22 "Article 32" hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.

According to a news release, Cook determined there were "reasonable grounds" to try Newmans on rape and sexual assault charges stemming from violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"Sexual assault is a crime, and we have no place for it in the Coast Guard," Zepeda said. "We take every allegation seriously and we do a thorough investigation to make sure that we have a positive command climate to allow our people to thrive."

The Coast Guard conducted a nine-month investigation into the allegations against Newmans.

Newmans' court-martial is scheduled for April. He could not be reached for comment.

The case comes as the military has seen an increase in instances of sexual abuse. Reported abuses went up by six percent between 2011 and 2012 — 3,374 reports of sexual abuse in 2012 compared to 3,192 in 2011 — according to recently released statistics from the U.S. Department of Defense.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed a defense authorization bill barring military commanders from overturning jury convictions or reducing sentences, and imposing stricter policies on perpetrators of sexual crimes. Additionally, the bill includes expanded legal services and resources for victims of sexual abuse.

Last week, Obama ordered a review of the Pentagon's efforts to curb sexual assault in the military "and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, as appropriate under the military justice system."

Lt. Paul Rhinard, a Washington, D.C.-based Coast Guard spokesman, said sexual assault is a problem the Coast Guard is working hard to mitigate.

"In recent months and recent years, we've recognized that there's a real issue," Rhinard said. "Sexual assault doesn't align with our values. It's not acceptable, so you're seeing a lot more aggressive action being taken toward those situations."


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