Navy SEAL appears in San Diego military courtroom on charge he sexually assaulted fellow sailor in Iraq
By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: August 21, 2020
SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — A San Diego-based Navy SEAL charged with a violent sexual assault against a fellow sailor in Iraq last year appeared in a Naval Base San Diego courtroom Friday for a motion hearing.
San Diego-based Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Adel Enayat is charged with sexual assault, battery and aggravated assault, according to a Navy charge sheet obtained by the Union-Tribune.
Although the charges include an accusation of intercourse without consent, under the military justice system the assault has to rise to the level of life threatening for the victim in order to become a charge of rape, said Brian O'Rourke, a Navy spokesman.
Enayat's civilian attorney, San Diego-based Jeremiah Sullivan, declined to comment on the case after court Friday but told the judge his client is the victim of sexual assault.
A spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in an email that the investigation into Enayat's allegation is closed.
"We can confirm NCIS opened a sexual assault investigation based on an allegation brought by SO1 Eneyat's attorney," Jeff Houson, an NCIS spokesman wrote. "NCIS closed the investigation after the attorney declined to let NCIS talk with SO1 Eneyat."
Enayat's unit, SEAL Team 7, Foxtrot Platoon, made national headlines last year when it was kicked out of the base in Iraq after a 4th of July party.
Shortly after the platoon returned to San Diego, SEAL Team 7's command triad — its commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief — were fired for what the Navy said were "leadership failures."
The party came two days after another SEAL Team 7 member — Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher — was acquitted on charges that he murdered an Isis fighter and shot civilians during a separate Iraq deployment in 2017. He was convicted of posing for pictures with the corpse of the dead fighter.
Enayat's charge sheet includes few details about the allegations against him.
According to the charges, on July 4, 2019, at Al Assad Air Base in Iraq, Enayat assaulted a petty officer 2nd class by strangling her, biting her face and penetrating her without consent.
The Associated Press published an account of the events that night from interviews with a witness, former sailor Colleen Grace.
Grace told the AP the victim called her to her room at 1:50 a.m. after the party. She said her friend was in bed with a bruised face.
Grace said the sailor told her that what begun as a consensual sexual encounter turned violent, when the SEAL began choking her and biting her face.
Grace said she took photos of her friend's injuries.
In addition to saying the SEAL was the rape victim, Sullivan also bought up his concerns in court about institutional racism with the military judge during Friday's hearing. He said his client might not receive a fair trial.
Enayat, who has fair skin and reddish-blonde hair, is "non-white," Sullivan said. He declined to specify his Enayat's race or ethnicity when asked by the Union-Tribune after court, citing his client's privacy.
Enayat arrived to court in civilian clothes and, despite a lingering heat wave, wore a gray hooded sweatshirt upon leaving the courthouse Friday with the hood pulled up. He wore his dress white uniform during the hearing.
Sullivan declined to answer questions about Enayat's claim that he was the victim in the case, though he pointed out that his client has been assigned victim's legal counsel by the Navy.
During the hearing, Sullivan told the judge that other witnesses will testify that the victim was sitting on Enayat's lap and licking his neck during the 4th of July party. Prosecutors said the alleged victim will testify that she was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
Sullivan also said that a witness in an adjacent room to Enayat's, where the alleged assault occured, will testify they didn't hear any disturbances that night.
Trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 16.