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Victim takes the stand in Academy court martial

Mar. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Midshipman 1st Class Joshua Tate, 21, is charged with sexually assaulting a fellow midshipman at the April 2012 'Togas and Yogas' party thrown at an Annapolis, Md., house rented for the football team.
Midshipman 1st Class Joshua Tate, 21, is charged with sexually assaulting a fellow midshipman at the April 2012 'Togas and Yogas' party thrown at an Annapolis, Md., house rented for the football team. (U.S. Naval Academy via AP)
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The female midshipman at the center of a court martial against a former Naval Academy football player took the stand Tuesday afternoon to answer questions about her alleged sexual assault at an off-campus party in 2012.

The woman described, at times tearfully, what she could remember from the night of the “Yogas and Togas” party at an off-campus Annapolis, Md., house rented for the football team, the events that led up to reporting the assault and the subsequent investigation.

Midshipman 2nd Class Joshua Tate faces charges of sexual assault. The case rests on whether the female midshipman was too drunk at the time to consent to sex with Tate.

Witnesses testified that the alleged victim seemed intoxicated throughout the party and that at one point she fell while dancing and was escorted to a nearby couch by partygoers.

The alleged victim testified that she took multiple shots with a friend from two bottles of rum that night, finishing the bottles.

She also testified that she didn’t remember having sex with anyone at the April 14, 2012, party but learned via social media and from rumors relayed to her by friends that she had sex with multiple men.

A friend, Midshipman 1st Class Candice Tisdale, said she’d heard the alleged victim had been with Tate the night before.

After a text message conversation earlier that day, Tate came by his accuser’s room to discuss the night before.

“He kind of looked at me and laughed and said, ‘What, you don’t remember?’ ” she testified. “He chuckled again and said, ‘You were too turnt up.’ ”

That term, “too turnt up,” came up several times throughout the day. Witnesses explained it means drinking heavily or otherwise going overboard while trying to have a good time.

Despite the rumors swirling around campus, the alleged victim said she didn’t want to report the incident.

She said she attempted to make a restricted report, which would not have led to an investigation but said the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office coordinator said that wasn’t an option because “the cat was already out of the bag.”

The alleged victim admitted to withholding details throughout the NCIS investigation into her assault. She also admitted to asking Tate to lie about having had sex with her.

“Even though I had so adamantly pushed that I didn’t want this case, it was that I didn’t want to be the one to push this case, because I knew everybody would retaliate against me,” said the woman, who's now a senior at the academy. Navy Times does not name alleged sex assault victims.

However, she explained, she had a change of heart in early 2013, after the Naval Academy decided not to go forward with prosecution. She went back to the investigators with more details to move the case forward.

The prosecution called four witnesses throughout the day, three of the accuser’s classmates, a forensic psychiatrist and the accuser.

The defense’s cross examination of the mids focused on pointing out inconsistencies between their court-martial testimony and previous statements they had made during Article 32 proceedings and during the initial investigation, including timelines and recollections of conversations with others.

The prosecution also called a forensic psychiatrist as an expert witness to discuss the effects of alcohol consumption on decision-making and memory retention.

Dr. (Lt. Col.) Daniel Johnson, based at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, testified that research has found that acute alcohol intoxication can affect a person’s ability to make decisions.

However, during questioning by the defense attorney, Johnson explained that alcohol doesn’t necessarily make someone unconscious of what they’re doing, but it can affect their ability to make memories of the event.

Johnson answered affirmatively when the judge asked whether a person can make informed decisions while drunk, even if they later have no memory of their actions.

NCIS originally investigated three midshipmen for sexually assaulting the accuser.

Following a September Article 32 hearing, Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller decided not to pursue a trial against now-Ensign Tra’ves Bush.

The alleged victim has admitted to a prior sexual relationship with Bush. Tisdale testified in the Article 32 hearing that the alleged victim told her she might have had consensual sex with Bush earlier in the night before becoming more intoxicated.

A military judge threw out a statement made to NCIS by the third accused, former-Midshipman 1st Class Eric Graham, after it came to light that the investigators had not read him his rights.

That statement, in which he admitted to having sex with his accuser, was the only piece of evidence linking him to the assault.

The trial is set to continue Wednesday and is expected to last throughout the week.

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