Court-martial begins at Camp Foster for sergeant accused of rape
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine sergeant accused of raping a Camp Adventure youth counselor last summer faced the first day of his court-martial Tuesday in Keystone Judicial Circuit Court.
Sgt. Roberto Hernandez, 27, assigned to the 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, is charged with raping a woman in her early 20s on July 27 during a party at an apartment in the Foster Towers military family housing.
He also faces two separate counts of indecent assault. Court records show Hernandez has been in pretrial confinement since his July 30 arrest by military police.
It was not disclosed in court Tuesday how military police learned of the incident. Military hospitals are required to report any indications of sexual assault to military police.
During an opening statement to the court-martial panel of three officers and three senior enlisted personnel, prosecutor Capt. Matthew J. Kent said Hernandez took advantage of the young woman as she lay drunk and unconscious on the apartment’s bathroom floor.
The woman was in Okinawa for the summer to run recreation programs for the children of military families. Every year, college students from the United States volunteer to spend their summers on U.S. military bases overseas to run summer youth programs.
Last year, Camp Adventure Youth Services, sponsored chiefly by base morale and community service programs, sent 790 volunteer counselors to 151 sites in 21 countries.
The woman, from Van Nuys, Calif., was one of the counselors assigned to Camp Foster.
Few other details about the woman were disclosed in court Tuesday. She did not testify during the trial’s opening day and was not in the courtroom during Tuesday’s proceedings.
The woman had come to the party with another counselor, Michelle Dobson, at the invitation of a lance corporal who was friends with the person hosting the party, Kent said. Sometime during the evening, he said, the woman became ill and passed out in the bathroom. Several people volunteered to watch her to ensure she did not hurt herself, the prosecutor said.
Dobson testified Tuesday afternoon that about a half-dozen people in the apartment were playing drinking games. Her friend spent more than an hour in the bathroom, Dobson said. She checked on her throughout the evening, she said, but became alarmed when she found the door closed and locked.
Hernandez was alone inside the room with her friend, Dobson said.
“We started pounding on the door yelling, screaming to get the door opened,” Dobson said. “I was getting pretty scared that something was very wrong with her. There was a lot of moaning and groaning coming from the bathroom.”
Marine Cpl. Juan Santillan, the party’s host, ran to the kitchen to get a butter knife. Using it, he was able to pop the lock, Santillan and Dobson testified.
The door opened slightly before it was pushed closed from the inside, Dobson said.
“I could see [her] on the floor face down,” Dobson tesified. “From the waist up she was naked.”
Santillan testified that he was incensed that his friend, Hernandez, had locked the door.
“I opened the door and it was pushed back in my face,” he testified. “I got even more mad and I forced my way in there. She was on the floor naked and I looked over at Hernandez, who was pulling his shorts up.”
He said Hernandez walked out of the bathroom. “He had a straight face and said, ‘I didn’t do nothing.’ Then he grabbed his shoes and walked out of the apartment,” Santillan said.
Dobson said her friend was able to “mumble” that someone had had sexual intercourse with her.
In his opening statement, Kent said the alleged victim had no recollection of what occurred that night, but felt something terrible had happened and did not know why.
She went to the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester, where a medical examination showed she had abrasions that suggested she had been sexually assaulted, Kent said.
What happened inside the locked bathroom is open to question, leading defense attorney Lt. Col. Peter L. Delorier said in his opening statement.
“This is a simple case,” he said. “The government’s phrase, ‘She doesn’t know why,’ says it all. When you peel off all the layers and inconsistencies, the government is going to ask you to make a leap of faith.
“All the evidence taken together is nothing but reasonable doubt,” he said.
During first-day cross-examinations, Delorier was able to show inconsistencies in statements made by witnesses.
Some said the alleged victim was naked; others said she had her shorts pulled to her knees.
Dobson testified that there was a period of time earlier that night when her friend was left alone in the bathroom with another male Marine who attended the party. Identified as a friend of the other Marines at the party, that Marine did not testify Tuesday.
The prosecution was expected to close its case Wednesday. The court-martial is expected to continue through Friday.