Testimony in Naval Academy rape case continues


Three ex-U.S. Navy football team members accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipment, from left: Eric Graham, Joshua Tate and Tra'ves Bush. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy Football)

Ten midshipmen testified Monday in the case of a woman who said she was raped at a Naval Academy party last year, giving often-conflicting but mostly damning accounts as to how intoxicated the accuser was and her level of awareness about what had happened to her when she later recounted events to them.

The female midshipman alleges she was assaulted by three former Naval Academy football players after blacking out from heavy drinking at an off-campus “football house” party in Annapolis in April 2012. She said she later learned from friends and via social media that she had had sex with the men.

The defendants are Tra’ves Bush, 22, of Johnston, S.C.; Joshua Tate, 21, of Eight Mile, Ala.; and Eric Graham, 21, of Nashville. They have denied any wrongdoing.

The case comes as the military is in the spotlight over how it deals with sexual harassment. About 26,000 service members said they were targets of unwanted sexual contact last year. But only 3,374 incidents were reported, according to the Defense Department.

The investigating officer who is presiding over the hearing will make a recommendation to the academy superintendent on whether the case should go to a court-martial.

Timeline

Past coverage: Naval Academy rape allegations

The hearing at the Navy Yard in Southeast is entering its second week and has involved more than 20 hours of testimony from the accuser, who is now 21. She concluded her testimony Sunday, after five days on the stand.

The Washington Post does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Many of the midshipmen at the “toga and yoga party,” which featured a moon bounce, appeared to know one another and were drinking heavily, according to testimony. Some of the midshipmen who testified Monday said the accuser was drunk and slurred her words, while others said she was just slightly intoxicated and did not have slurred speech.

In an illustration of the complicated web of relationships at the party and in the courtroom, Ashlyn Soellner, a midshipman who was a witness for the defense, testified that her relationship with one of the defendants had gone from doing homework together to a sexual nature. Another midshipman, Ryan Williams, said he had had a previous relationship with the accuser.

He testified that the accuser told him, “I’m not proud of what I did,” referring to the night of the party.

Another witness — Christa Kamon, a midshipman who is a friend of the accuser — testified that the accuser called her the day after the party and asked, “Where am I, and what happened?”

But one of the accuser’s best friends — midshipman Kenyon Williams — testified that the day after the party, the accuser appeared aware of what had happened. “Last night was crazy,” Williams recounted the accuser saying. He said the woman also told him, “What I did last night, I did it and I wanted to do it.”

Kenyon Williams testified that the accuser drank alcohol the night of the party and that although he went with her and others to the party, he later left without her. Lawyers for the defendants asked him in cross examination whether he recalled telling investigators that the accuser had told him the night after the party that she “did it” and “wanted to do it.”

“I do not remember her exactly saying that,” he said Monday on the stand.

At the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, the accused midshipmen sat expressionless in their dress whites.

Candice Tisdale, a midshipman and friend of the accuser, testified that she helped the accuser make a list of the men she had sex with the night of the party. Tisdale said the accuser told her that she believed she had had sex with Bush earlier on the evening of the party and that it had been consensual. Tisdale said the accuser told her she had bruising from having sex on the night in question.

Another witness — midshipman Brian Williams — testified that he later asked the accuser about rumors about her sexual interactions from that night. An attorney for one of the defendants asked Williams:

“She said, ‘She drank a little, some things happened, but she had been aware of them.’ Right?”

Williams answered yes.

The lawyer also asked, “She also told you she was responsible for what she had done?” referring to the night of the party.

He answered, “Yes, sir.”

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.

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