Military Law

Accuser in Naval Academy rape case was 'victimized again by defense lawyers,' columnist says

A midshipman who accused three former Naval Academy football players of rape was cross-examined for more than 24 hours over five days during a hearing to determine whether the men will face court-martial.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus says the hearing put the victim on trial.

“This was a case of defense lawyers gone wild, unhampered by strict rules of evidence and with clearly inadequate supervision by the officer who presided over the melee,” Marcus wrote in this column. “The woman who says she was victimized by three of her classmates at an off-campus ‘toga and yoga’ party last year was victimized again by defense lawyers, subjected to more than 24 hours of testimony over five days.”

The woman was asked whether she was wearing a bra and underwear, whether she “felt like a ho” the morning after, and how wide she opens her mouth to perform oral sex. When she pleaded for a day off from testimony, one of the defense lawyers suggested she was faking exhaustion, according to Marcus and a prior Washington Post story.

“What was she going to be doing anyway?” asked defense lawyer Ronald “Chip” Herrington. “Something more strenuous than sitting in a chair? We don’t concede there’s been any stress involved.”

The woman testified she blanked out after she drank heavily and had had little recollection of the evening. She learned later the three football players claimed they had sex with her while she was drunk. She also testified that she did have consensual sex with a different football player. She has said she initially refused to cooperate because she was ashamed and didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

Marcus says the so-called Article 32 hearing shows the need for the military to ensure that allegations of sexual assault are taken seriously and handled with appropriate sensitivity.

On Thursday, the woman asked a federal court in Maryland to order recusal of the academy’s superintendent from deciding whether the men will face court-martial, Reuters reports. The suit claims the superintendent has a “direct interest in ensuring that nothing … diminishes or undermines the reputation of the Naval Academy.”

The suit alleges the superintendent didn’t give the woman adequate rest during the proceedings and “thus assisted defense counsel in their effort to ‘turn the victim into the criminal.’ “

The three accused men are Tra’ves Bush, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate.

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