Judge Won't Dismiss Naval Academy Sex Assault Case

A woman at the center of a sexual assault case against a former Naval Academy football player asked a second player for sex on the night when she was allegedly assaulted, and she didn't care that he didn't have a condom, that player testified Wednesday.

Eric Graham made those statements while testifying on the second day of a trial for former teammate Joshua Tate. Graham also initially faced charges in the case, but they were dropped in January after a military judge said statements he made during an investigation would not be admissible during a trial.

Defense attorneys for Tate, of Nashville, Tenn., argue he had consensual sex with a female classmate at an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. Prosecutors say the woman was too drunk to consent. Tate's court-martial, the military equivalent of a trial, is being closely watched as the military tries to improve the way it handles sexual assault cases.

Graham testified Wednesday that the alleged victim performed oral sex on him in a car at the party and asked for sex. When he told her he didn't have a condom, "She said she didn't care,'' Graham said. Graham said he entered the car after Tate told him the woman wanted to talk to him. Tate allegedly assaulted the woman in the vehicle before Graham got in.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name alleged victims of sexual assault.

Graham also testified Wednesday that the woman did not appear ``dangerously intoxicated,'' that she was in control of her body and able to make her own decisions. That's a key question in the case, which is expected to finish Thursday with closing arguments.

More than a dozen people testified over the course of the two-day trial, many of them midshipmen who also attended the 2012 party at the "football house'' in Annapolis, Md., where the Academy is located. The alleged victim spent the longest time on the stand. She began testifying Tuesday and continued Wednesday, for a total of about five hours. She said she does not remember having sex with Tate, but he later told her they had.

Prosecutors initially accused Tate, Graham and a third football player of sexually assaulting the woman during the party in which men wore togas and women wore yoga pants. Tate, now 22 and in his third year, is the only one who remains charged in the case. He could spend up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated sexual assault, the most serious charge he faces, his lawyer Jason Ehrenberg said. Tate is also accused of lying to investigators. A military judge hearing the case will decide his guilt or innocence.

In addition to testimony from Graham, the judge heard Wednesday from the other man formerly accused in the case, Tra'ves Bush of Johnston, S.C. One of Tate's lawyers read a statement from Bush in which he said the alleged victim "did not seem intoxicated'' when he first encountered her at the party, though she later looked like she had been drinking.

Bush, who said he had been involved in a casual relationship with the woman, said she was "in control of her movements and her speech.'' The head of the Naval Academy decided in October not to take Bush's case to court-martial, saying there were no ``reasonable grounds'' to believe he had committed a crime.

The defense's last witness was an expert, Thomas Grieger, a retired Navy forensic psychiatrist, who reviewed the statements of witnesses and watched the trial. Grieger said that from what he reviewed and heard at trial the woman was not exhibiting signs of incapacitation and appeared quite alert. And he said that even when a person is very drunk they can retain the ability to understand what's going on and tell right from wrong, even if they can't remember their actions at a later date.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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