Naval Academy midshipman acquitted of sexual assault charges
By DANIELLE OHL | The Capital | Published: April 15, 2019
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — A jury acquitted a Naval Academy midshipman on all charges Friday, the culmination of a five-day trial for charges of sexual assault.
Midshipman First Class Michael Wallace was found not guilty Friday of rape, causing bodily harm and obstructing justice, said his attorney, Antoinette O’Neill.
Navy investigators charged Wallace, 23, in March 2018 after a female enlisted sailor in the Navy Reserves accused him of sexually assaulting her while she was asleep.
Two-thirds jury consensus is required to convict in military proceedings, said O’Neill, but as there is no jury polling, the breakdown of the decision will not be made public. The jury deliberated for about seven hours, she said.
The decision came after days of testimony from Wallace, the sailor, witnesses and experts. Wallace testified in his own defense Thursday, maintaining he did not sexually assault the sailor while on spring break in Pensacola, Fla.
The sailor and Wallace matched on Tinder in March 2018 and after a night of texting, met up outside Seville Quarter, a club with several different themed bars and rooms inside.
Wallace, before meeting her, asked the sailor whether she wanted to have sex. She responded, “not me.” The two texted for the duration of the night, into the early morning, and eventually found each other after Seville Quarter closed.
Wallace and the sailor took an Uber and initially headed for his condo, but he ultimately joined the sailor and a friend in her hotel room.
The sailor accused Wallace of raping her while she was asleep. Wallace told the jury she was awake. The sex was consensual, but “weird,” he said.
The sailor told him to “stop,” according to his testimony. Afterward, wanting to leave the room and to prevent her from contacting him again, Wallace unmatched the sailor on Tinder and blocked her number.
Wallace told her his phone was dead and needed to see a map so he could walk back to his condo, miles away. Instead, he used her unlocked phone to delete their text message conversation. He admitted to lying to get access to her phone but claimed he was only trying to get out of an awkward situation, not to delete evidence. The prosecution disagreed, alleging he was trying to erase any documentation of their encounter.
The sailor sent Wallace texts after he left, accusing him of forcing sex, the prosecutor, Cmdr. Kate Shovlin, said during the trial, but Wallace testified he never received them, having blocked her number.
He also asserted his friends, who testified earlier in the trial, were mistaken when they said he erased the sailor’s phone when she was in the bathroom.
Wallace nearly had completed four years at the Naval Academy at the time of the charges, but did not graduate with his class in May. He was assigned to the Naval Academy for the duration of the trial.
The midshipman, according to his LinkedIn page, is a Trident Scholar, was a brigade academics officer and was member of the academy’s intramural soccer team. He was accepted into the Schwarzman Scholars Program at Tsinghua University in China, where he was scheduled to pursue a graduate degree in global affairs, economics and business.