Osan airman's rape trial goes to jury
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — A military jury here Thursday began weighing its verdict in the trial of an airman accused of raping a female fellow-airman in her dorm room in April.
Proceedings were to resume Friday morning in the general court-martial of Senior Airman Calvin Wheeler Jr. of Osan’s 51st Communications Squadron. He’s charged with rape and adultery.
The trial opened Wednesday before a six-member jury of Air Force commissioned officers. The judge is Air Force Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief military judge for the Pacific Circuit out of Yokota Air Base, Japan.
The female airman has testified she and Wheeler were friends who’d served together first at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and later at Osan. She testified that after a night of socializing outside Osan, she agreed to let him stay in her room — where he raped her.
Wheeler is married, which led to the adultery charge.
Jurors heard from prosecution witnesses Wednesday and Thursday and defense witnesses Thursday. Wheeler did not testify.
Much of the defense effort appeared aimed at undercutting the female airman’s credibility.
In the trial’s first day, she acknowledged she’d claimed to have been raped six times since being in the Air Force but hadn’t reported the first five incidents, which she said were at Nellis. The sixth, she said, was the April incident involving Wheeler.
The defense drew attention to that statement repeatedly and to her testimony that she never shouted or struggled during the April incident. The defense also called witnesses whose testimony indicated the woman had demonstrated an active sexual interest and a volatile temperament.
The prosecution sought to buttress its case Thursday in part with a clinical psychologist who testified he’d interviewed the woman and found she did not fit the clinical profile of a “false reporter” of rape. The psychologist, Air Force Capt. Teg McBride, 18th Medical Operations Squadron, Okinawa, testified that shame and other trauma associated with sex crimes keep many victims from reporting rapes and sexual assaults. Most female rape victims “get very quiet” and “rarely” fight or “pound walls,” he said.
While “you can never fully rule out” the possibility of a false report, “a woman is much, much, much more likely to” not report than to falsely report, he said.
Earlier Thursday, prosecution witness Special Agent John T. Mendoza Jr., of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, testified he questioned Wheeler after the April incident.
Wheeler said he’d been drinking heavily at an off-base club and could recall little of what happened afterward. “He stated that there would be no reason for her to make this up,” Mendoza testified. “He did state that it could have happened. … He didn’t want to guess.”
In his closing argument, prosecutor Capt. Chris May, of Yokota Air Base, contended Wheeler and the female airman were friends but Wheeler wanted a deeper relationship and the woman did not.
Wheeler “ties one on way too far and … rapes his friend, and that is a shame,” May said. “But now he’s got to live with that. … The alcohol will not absolve him.”
In the closing defense argument, Capt. Gloria Downey, area defense counsel at Osan Air Base, said the case “is about whether you believe” the female airman. Would the woman, Downey asked, “actually lie about rape? Yeah! There’s no escaping the fact that you must believe” the accuser “to convict Airman Wheeler.”