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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A military jury has found an airman not guilty of raping a German woman.

The panel, which included five enlisted members and two officers, deliberated for more than seven hours before clearing him of the charges late Wednesday.

Airman 1st Class Michael J. Briestensky, a biomedical equipment apprentice with the 435th Medical Squadron at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, was accused of raping the 25-year-old woman Sept. 26 after meeting her at a bar.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Capt. Jason Kellhofer said the lack of corroborating evidence to support the woman’s accusations should be enough to acquit Briestensky. He told jurors that their decision rested heavily on whether they believed the woman’s testimony.

“You either believe her or you don’t believe her,” he said.

Prosecutors did not present any physical evidence of an assault or rape, and defense attorneys exploited that point during the trial. There was no evidence that the woman had any bruises, cuts or scratches to indicate she tried to fight off an attack.

The woman testified Tuesday on the opening day of the general court-martial that she passed out on the couch and later awoke half-naked with Briestensky on top of her. It was previously reported that the woman worked for the U.S. military, but prosecutors said Thursday that she is an assistant at an off-base dental office.

The maximum punishment for rape is death or another punishment as “a court-martial may direct,” according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In Briestensky’s case, he faced a maximum punishment of life in prison without eligibility for parole, a dishonorable discharge, reduction to the lowest pay grade and total forfeiture of pay and allowances.


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