Female midshipman grilled in U.S. Naval Academy rape case
(Please note graphic language in the fifth paragraph)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A defense attorney for one of three U.S. Naval Academy football players accused of raping a female midshipman grilled the woman about her sexual history during a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
The men - Tra'ves Bush, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate - are accused of sexually assaulting the woman last year while she was passed out after drinking heavily at an off-campus party near Annapolis, Maryland, home of the elite military academy, which trains men and women to become professional officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
The three men have denied the charges.
The hearing follows a spate of high-profile military sexual assault cases, including some involving personnel whose job it was to prevent sexual abuse.
During cross-examination, referring to the morning after the party, Bush's attorney Andrew Weinstein asked the woman: "Did you notice any semen coming out of your vagina?"
"No," answered the woman, who was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the alleged assault.
She testified she did not notice any bruising around her genitalia but later in the morning saw bruising on her thighs.
Weinstein also questioned the woman about her sexual history with Bush, with whom she earlier had a consensual sexual relationship. He asked if she had been wearing panties the night of the party and she answered 'yes.'
She also testified that she had started drinking at 17.
Weinstein challenged contradictory statements made by the woman to Navy investigators in September 2012. They included that she had "13 seconds of memory relating to sexual activity" that night, something she denied on Wednesday.
She also contradicted an interview she had given to CNN in which she said the three men had pressured her not to cooperate with investigators. She testified that Tate had been the only one to do so.
The woman, who like the three men was wearing a white summer uniform, looked exasperated on the witness stand, yawning and rubbing her temples.
The so-called Article 32 hearing at Washington's Navy Yard will determine if a general court-martial is warranted. Reuters generally does not report the names of sexual assault victims.
The woman has said that she awoke on the morning after the party with a cloudy recollection of events. She learned from friends and social media that three football players were allegedly claiming to have had sex with her.
Nearly two weeks after the party, a fellow student insisted that she report the underage drinking and possible sexual assault to authorities, she has said.
The woman says she filed an assault report and volunteered to accept punishment for underage drinking. She sought legal help in early 2013.
Bush, Graham and Tate also are charged with making false statements. Bush's May graduation from the academy was put on hold pending the outcome of the case. Graham is a senior, and Tate is a junior.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)
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