WASHINGTON Witnesses in a preliminary hearing of three former U.S. Naval Academy cadets charged with raping a female midshipman testified on Monday that she appeared drunk the night the alleged assault took place, but differed on how intoxicated she was.
The men - Tra'ves Bush, 22; Eric Graham, 21; and Joshua Tate, 21 - are accused of sexually assaulting the woman in April 2012 when she blacked out from binge drinking at an off-campus party in Annapolis, Maryland, the site of the elite academy.
The rape allegations are the latest in a spate of high-profile U.S. military sexual assault cases, including some involving personnel whose job it was to prevent sexual abuse.
"She was drunk," said Midshipman Jasmine Sarjeant, who described her friend's level of intoxication to be "a five or maybe six" out of 10 when she saw her that night.
"She wasn't the sloppy drunk at the party, was she?" asked Bush's attorney, Andrew Weinstein.
"No. Not at that time," said Sarjeant.
The following day the woman, now an Academy senior, told Sarjeant she thought there would be "a lot of rumors" about what she did the night before, said Sarjeant.
She was among more than a dozen partygoers and friends of the female midshipman questioned by defense lawyers and government officials in the hearing at Washington's Navy Yard.
Christa Kamon, a close friend of the female midshipman, testified the woman was so intoxicated that she was slurring her words and lost her balance at one point.
"I WANTED TO DO IT"
Midshipman Kenyon Williams, who the alleged victim has testified was her best friend, said the woman did not appear to be intoxicated. She did not mention the alleged assault to him in the weeks following the party, he said.
During cross-examination, Weinstein asked Williams about a statement to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in which he recalled the woman telling him the day after the party: "What I did last night - I did it and I wanted to do it."
"If I told NCIS this, it's what happened," Williams testified.
Midshipman Brian Williams, who danced with the woman that night, testified, "First time I saw her, she wasn't all that bad."
After hearing rumors about the female midshipman in the days following the party, he said he asked her if everything was OK.
"She told you at the time, she 'drank a little, some things happened, but she had been aware of them.' Is that right?" asked Weinstein, referring to a statement Williams had made to investigators.
"Yes," said Williams, who is not related to Kenyon Williams.
The three men are charged with sexual assault and making false statements. Reuters generally does not report the names of sexual assault victims.
The so-called Article 32 hearing will determine whether a general court-martial is warranted.
Disclosure of the alleged incident came a week after President Barack Obama, in a speech at the Naval Academy on May 24, urged graduates to stamp out sexual assault from their ranks.
The woman, now a senior at the academy, has said she woke up with little recollection of what had happened. She later learned that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was drunk, her attorney Susan Burke has said.
Defense attorneys on Sunday wrapped up cross-examination of the woman. The alleged victim spent dozens of hours over five days on the stand answering questions, many repetitive and graphic, about the party and its aftermath.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Ellen Wulfhorst, Ian Simpson and Philip Barbara)