Sailor to be sentenced after being found guilty of kidnapping, assault
May 18, 2006
RAF Alconbury, England — A jury convicted a U.S. sailor Wednesday on charges of kidnapping, indecent assault and impersonating a Navy investigator after a three-day court-martial here.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher A. Byard, 20, will learn his sentence Thursday morning, when his trial reconvenes.
It took the jury of eight men and two women a little more than four hours to find Byard guilty on all counts in connection with the Nov. 18, 2005, incident.
The victim in the case testified that Byard had coaxed her back to his room by posing as a naval investigator and that she ultimately feared for her life when he used a chokehold to stop her from leaving his room. She testified that she was held against her will for four hours and sexually assaulted.
The victim, an airman first class, testified that she was a regular at the base club who volunteered with the local Girl Scouts and participated in a Hurricane Katrina volunteer drive. She also had an affair with a married noncommissioned officer from the U.S. Marine Corps.
It is Stars and Stripes policy not to identify victims of sexual assault.
Byard did not take the stand in his own defense.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Lt. Cmdr. Steven Milewski tried to introduce doubt into the jurors’ minds by raising the possibility the victim had concocted the story of her abduction and assault to discredit Byard, who could have leaked information about her affair to authorities.
Milewski argued Byard simply made a mistake by saying he was an investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and that he did not sexually assault the victim.
“Petty Officer Byard’s a good sailor who made a mistake that night. Sailors sometimes act stupid when they drink,” he said.
Lead prosecution attorney Navy Lt. Jonathan Freimann’s case relied on the victim’s testimony and one other key piece of evidence.
The morning after the incident, Byard signed a statement in which he largely confessed to the majority of the charges. Although his admission of sexually assaulting the airman was ruled inadmissible in a pretrial motion, the admission provided the prosecution with plenty of ammunition.
“Every witness and every piece of evidence corroborates what he said,” Freimann said. “Each element of each crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The jurors agreed.
U.S. Navy Judge (Capt.) Dave White dismissed the jury for the day after the verdict was announced, but directed them to be ready at 8 a.m. Thursday for the sentencing portion of the court-martial.
Byard faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He serves in the United Kingdom with the Navy information operations detachment Molesworth.