Midshipman Joshua Tate, a senior from Nashville, Tennessee, had
been accused of assaulting the 22-year-old woman at an
alcohol-fueled off-campus party in April 2012.
Marine Colonel Daniel Daugherty found Tate, who resigned from the
academy on Thursday, not guilty of aggravated sexual assault after
two days of testimony by more than a dozen witnesses at Washington's
Asked by reporters how much of the trial had been motivated by the
military wanting to show it was tough on sexual misconduct, Tate's
attorney Jason Ehrenberg said: "All of it."
"That's the system we have. We protect alleged victims, but we don't
protect alleged perpetrators," he said.
Tate stood at attention and showed no emotion while Daugherty read
the verdict before a full courtroom. After the decision, he turned
and spoke to his attorneys in a low voice, and walked away from the
court building smiling.
His accuser was not present. Prosecutors declined to comment.
Daugherty said he would refer another charge against Tate, making
false official statements, to the academy for discipline under the
school's honor system.
Later in the day on Thursday, Naval Academy spokesman Commander John
Schofield said Tate had resigned from the program in exchange for
that charge being dropped.
Three U.S. Naval Academy football players were initially accused but
Tate was the only one to be court-martialed. Charges against the
other two were dropped.
TORN ABOUT COOPERATING
The woman, also a senior at the elite service academy in Annapolis,
Maryland, testified that she had been torn about cooperating with
Navy investigators and had concealed from them how much alcohol she
consumed at the party.
She conceded that she was too drunk to remember having sex and only
learned about it through social media and classmates. Reuters does
not report the names of sexual assault victims.
In his verdict, Daugherty said the woman had obviously been
traumatized by comments her classmates posted on Facebook and
Twitter, which he called "rude, disgusting and vulgar."
[to top of second column]
But her failure to remember the sexual encounter did not by itself
prove she was incapacitated or did not consent to having sex with
Tate, the judge said.
Robert Kelly, a former judge for the Marine Corps and Navy, said the
Tate case underscored how commanders were free to order prosecution
despite legal advice against it.
Vice Admiral Michael Miller, the Naval Academy superintendent, was
urged by his legal counsel and a military judge not to proceed. He
denied in a January hearing that he was under pressure to go ahead
A commander "is the one who makes the big bucks to make the hard
call. He's the one who's in charge, and he's the one who has to live
with the consequences," said Kelly, now an attorney with the Tully
Rinckey law firm in Washington.
The Defense Department said in December that there were slightly
more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults across the armed forces
in the fiscal year through October, up about 50 percent from the
President Barack Obama also in December approved reforms aimed at
stemming the crisis. He urged graduating Naval Academy officers in
May to stamp out sexual assault in their ranks.
Also on Thursday, a one-star U.S. Army general who had pleaded
guilty to mistreating a junior female officer during an adulterous
sexual affair was reprimanded by a military judge but avoided jail
time in a rare court-martial of a top officer.
(Writing by Ian Simpson; editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and
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