Sex assault trial begins for Naval Academy football player

The court-martial of former US Naval Academy football player charged with aggravated sexual assault and falsification of official statements opened Tuesday morning.

US Naval Academy/AP/File
US Naval Academy Midshipman Joshua Tate, a former US Naval Academy football player, has been accused of sexual assault. Lawyers offered opening statements Tuesday in his court-martial.

Joshua Tate faced a court-martial Tuesday morning for sexual assault of a fellow midshipman after she passed out at an alcohol-fueled party in April 2012.

The former Naval Academy football player has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and falsification of official statements.

The trial comes on the heels of another high-profile military sexual assault case. On Monday, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was cleared of sexual assault charges but pleaded guilty to conducting a three-year affair with a female captain and pressuring other subordinates into texting him nude photos as part of a controversial plea deal.

Both cases have focused the national spotlight on sexual assault in the military. A Defense Department study released last May estimated that 26,000 armed service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year, the Monitor reported.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed new a bill, which would eliminate the so-called “good-soldier” defense, which takes a defendant's service record into account, and would criminalize retaliation against victims of sexual assault, the Monitor reported. The bill has yet to be introduced in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Tate waived his right to a trial by jury at a Washington Navy Yard hearing on Friday, instead opting for a trial by judge. Opening arguments for the trial were originally scheduled for Monday, but were postponed due to a snowstorm that closed federal offices.

Prosecutor Col. Ryan Stormer argued that the victim had become too intoxicated to have consented to sex after taking “shot after shot after shot” and “swig after swig after swig” from a bottle of rum until the point of blacking out, The Baltimore Sun reports.

Defense attorney Cmdr. Warren "Art" Record countered that the victim had told a close friend the following morning, "Last night was crazy. What I did last night, I did it and I wanted to do it," according to the Sun.

The woman testified in a earlier hearing to determine whether a court-martial was warranted. At the hearing, she said she remembers little of what happened that night and began to piece together the events as rumors of a woman having sex with several men circulated the following day.

Two additional men were initially implicated in the assault, Tra’ves Bush of Johnston, S.C., and Eric Graham of Eight Mile, Ala. Charges against Mr. Bush were dropped in October after the hearing and those against Mr. Graham were dropped in January because Navy investigators neglected to read him his rights.

Material from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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