USS McCain sailor convicted of forcibly sodomizing shipmate
July 30, 2004
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A sailor assigned to the USS John S. McCain was found guilty Wednesday of the forcible sodomy of another sailor after a drunken night on liberty in Australia.
Military Judge Cmdr. John Maksym found Seaman Fonzay Knight guilty after a day of testimony from the victim, a former friend of Knight’s, and others at Knight’s court-martial in Yokosuka’s base courtroom.
Knight, who’s in his early 20s and has been in the Navy for about two years, was to be sentenced Thursday. The maximum penalty is life in prison.
Knight, a storekeeper on the ship, claimed that the oral sex he’d started to perform on a petty officer first class in the petty officer’s room April 26, in a Darwin, Australia, Holiday Inn, had been consensual. But the petty officer said it was not and that he’d been horrified to awaken to find Knight engaging in the sex act.
According to military law, force is inherent in any sex assault in which the victim is asleep and cannot give consent and penetration occurs. In the military, consensual sodomy also is a crime but with a maximum penalty of five years’ confinement.
Prosecutor Lt. Joseph Judkins argued that the petty officer, a married man of 33, was asleep or unconscious after hours of drinking — in essence, too intoxicated and sleepy to give consent.
Defense lawyer Lt. Catherine McFarland, on the other hand, argued that the petty officer was just drunk enough to engage in a fling or one-night stand. He was not asleep, she said, but able to talk and move, and did consent. Then he changed his mind, she argued, and at that point her client stopped what he was doing.
According to testimony, the two men had been friends, with the petty officer inviting the younger seaman to his home for dinner and offering an ear for Knight to discuss his personal problems. Knight had disclosed to him that he was experiencing sexuality issues, was attracted to men and thought he was gay, according to statements in the case.
The incident occurred after the petty officer returned from drinking at a club the night of the assault — drinking far more than usual, according to testimony. The next day, the petty officer told another sailor that there had been an incident with Knight. He did not disclose details, but, the sailor testified, the petty officer was crying and clearly upset.
Subsequently, ship authorities were informed; on May 21, Knight was charged with forcible sodomy. According to attorneys, Knight told investigators that the petty officer had been asleep. He also said that the petty officer had responded to him after he’d gotten in bed. But the petty officer denied doing so.
The petty officer, in testimony Wednesday afternoon, said he’d had a difficult time dealing with what had happened, that he felt uncomfortable on board the ship now and even had lost some of his work ethic.
“I couldn’t look people in the face,” he said. “I felt everybody was against me. I felt that I was alone and that everybody else thought it was just a joke.”
He said he thinks about that night “almost constantly,” wondering why it happened and what, if anything, he might have done to provoke it.