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RAF ALCONBURY, England — The Article 32 hearing for a noncommissioned officer suspected of child rape, sodomy and assault opened with a twist Tuesday when a key witness alleged the suspect also had raped her.

The unexpected allegation prompted Staff Sgt. Joseph Spaulding’s civilian attorney to go on the offensive against the witness, grilling her about inconsistencies in previous statements — written and verbal — in an effort to discredit the witness and the claim.

It is Stars and Stripes policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

The clothes the witness was or was not wearing at the time of the alleged rape as well as her history with law enforcement were key targets for Greg McCormack.

He also briefly alluded to the witness’ alleged attempts to poison the suspect and her pulling a gun on Spaulding in his sleep, which drew an immediate query of relevance from investigating officer Maj. Eric Mejia, of the 501st Combat Support Wing.

The witness raised her own line of questioning at the defense attorney.

“Have you ever been raped?” she asked.

“You are here to answer my questions,” McCormack shot back.

Spaulding, for his part, appeared unmoved by the allegation. He simply continued his note-taking on his yellow legal notepad.

The hearing, held in a tiny courtroom on this Cambridgeshire County Air Force installation, is being held to determine if sufficient evidence exists to warrant a court-martial against the seven-year military veteran.

Spaulding, who serves with the 423rd Civil Engineering Squadron, is suspected of raping a child under 12 as well as forcible sodomy, communicating a threat and several allegations of assault and battery.

The child rape allegation stems from an encounter with a then-8-year-old girl that allegedly occurred between March and May 2005. The other allegations are connected to incidents that occurred prior to the alleged child rape.

The first witness was on the stand for more than three hours, in which she spoke at length about Spaulding’s alleged alcohol abuse, tendencies toward violence and his fondness for Internet pornography.

“He pulled knives on me all the time,” she testified.

Mejia closed the courtroom to the public and the press during the testimony of the alleged child rape victim.

The hearing is schedule to continue Wednesday and may run through Thursday.

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