Midshipman Joshua Tate, of Nashville, Tenn. (U.S. Naval Academy / via AP)
WASHINGTON — A lawyer representing a former Naval Academy football player accused of sexual assault says the case against his client is going forward after a military judge rejected a request to dismiss it for lack of evidence.
The judge overseeing the case, Col. Daniel Daugherty, has not yet issued a written ruling. But lawyer Jason Ehrenberg said the judge told lawyers involved in the case what he planned to do during a telephone conference call Monday.
Ehrenberg and other lawyers for 21-year-old Joshua Tate of Nashville, Tenn., had argued that prosecutors don’t have the evidence to prove the central theory of their case: that the woman Tate is accused of sexually assaulting was too drunk to consent to sexual activity. The lawyers also argued that political pressure influenced the head of the Naval Academy to move forward with the case and that it should, therefore, be dropped.
The judge decided to allow the case to go forward, however, Ehrenberg said Tuesday. Tate is scheduled to face a court-martial, the military’s equivalent of a trial, in March.
“I’m frustrated, frustrated with the system, but our job is just to keep going until the end,” Ehrenberg said. “So, as much as I’m disappointed and as much as I disagree that anyone can find that there are grounds to proceed, that’s the ruling we have.”
Ehrenberg said he and the other lawyers on the defense team are now preparing for trial. The defense team did score a minor victory, however. Ehrenberg said the judge has agreed with defense lawyers that the military jury that hears the case should not be selected from the Naval Academy.
Prosecutors initially accused Tate and two other football players of sexually assaulting the woman, a fellow Naval Academy student, during a 2012 party at an off-campus house in Annapolis, Md., where the school is located. The woman said she didn’t remember being sexually assaulted after a night of heavy drinking but heard from others she had had sex with multiple partners at the party.
Tate is the only one who remains charged in the case. The head of the Naval Academy decided in October not to go forward with a court-martial for one student, Tra’ves Bush of Johnston, S.C., after an officer investigating the case found no reasonable grounds to believe he had committed sexual assault.
And in January, after a recommendation from prosecutors, the school’s superintendent dismissed charges against a second student, Eric Graham of Eight Mile, Ala. Prosecutors said they would have difficulty proving their case against Graham after the judge ruled statements Graham made during an investigation would not be admissible during a military trial.
Tate faces a charge of aggravated sexual assault and charges of lying to investigators.