September 1, 2013 / 8:25 PM / 4 years ago

Limits put on how long U.S. Naval midshipman in rape case must testify

(Reuters) - The military officer presiding at a hearing on accusations by a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman that she was raped by three academy football players agreed on Sunday to limit the amount of testimony she must give, after her lawyers complained she was exhausted.

The female midshipman said she was sexually assaulted in April 2012 while she was blacked out after drinking too much at an off-campus “football house” party in Annapolis, Maryland, site of the elite academy. Tra‘ves Bush, 22; Eric Graham, 21; and Joshua Tate, 21, have been charged.

The ruling on her testimony came at a so-called Article 32 hearing to determine if the men should be court-martialed.

The woman in this case, now a Naval Academy senior, had been questioned, with periodic breaks, by defense attorneys for more than 20 hours since Wednesday afternoon, with one hearing lasting more than 12 hours.

Lawyers for the woman said she could not give clear and accurate testimony because she was so exhausted by the long hours spent on the witness stand.

On Sunday, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing, Commander Robert Monahan, granted a request to limit her time on the stand to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., or essentially to no more than nine hours a day.

She will also be entitled to take breaks from the testimony at least every 90 minutes.

The woman, who was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the alleged incident, was initially uncooperative with investigators. In explanation, she said she did not want to get anyone in trouble and that she feared her mother would force her to leave the school.

Reuters generally does not report the names of sexual assault victims.

During cross examination of the woman on Sunday a lawyer for Tate argued that the woman was not sufficiently afraid of Tate considering the allegations because the summer after the alleged rape, she got on a boat at a party where Tate was present. She went inside the boat with him and had a conversation with him.

“Would it be fair to say you weren’t intimidated by Josh Tate at his point in time?” the lawyer, Jason Ehrenburg, asked. She responded: “I felt ... I had no reason to be intimidated at that specific instance.”

She was also questioned at length on Sunday by Graham’s attorney, Lieutenant Commander Angela Tang, as to whether she deleted her Twitter account to hide potential evidence from investigators - an allegation she denied.

The woman said she filed an assault report at the urging of a fellow student and volunteered to accept punishment for underage drinking. She sought legal help in early 2013.

Bush, Graham and Tate, none of them any longer on the school’s football team, are also charged with making false statements. Bush’s graduation in May was put on hold pending the outcome of the case. Graham is a senior, and Tate is a junior.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston

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