UPDATED: 3:22 a.m. March 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — Attorneys for a former Naval Academy football player charged with sexual assault grilled his accuser on the witness stand Wednesday, questioning why she didn’t initially cooperate with investigators.
The defense for Joshua Tate argues he had consensual sex with the woman at an alcohol-fueled party in 2012, but prosecutors say the woman blacked out and was too drunk to consent. Tate is charged with aggravated sexual assault and lying to investigators. The court-martial is being closely watched case as the military tries to improve the way it handles sexual assault cases.
One of Tate’s lawyers, Jason Ehrenberg, asked the woman about why she tried to frustrate investigators’ efforts to learn what happened.
The woman said she went to the captain of the football team to ask for his help in squashing rumors that she had sex with multiple people at the party. One of Tate’s lawyers also played a recorded phone call between Tate and the woman in which she suggested he lie to investigators about what happened.
“I don’t want this to go anywhere, I really don’t,” she said in the call, adding that she didn’t give any names to investigators.
When Tate asked why he might be interviewed she says: “You’re involved, Tate.”
She said Tate asked her if she had a rape kit done and she did not. She also said he wanted to be friends.
“He asked me several times ‘why can’t we be friends?'” she said.
The alleged victim said she started cooperating with investigators after she found a mentor and realized she needed to stand up for herself. She spent about five hours testifying over two days.
Prosecutors initially accused Tate and two other students, all of them football players, of sexually assaulting the woman during a 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.
The head of the Naval Academy decided in October not to go forward with charges against Tra’ves Bush, of Johnston, S.C., finding that there were no “reasonable grounds” to believe that a crime had been committed in his case.
The other man initially accused, Eric Graham of Eight Mile, Ala., testified Wednesday that he saw Tate step out of a car, where the alleged assault occurred. At that point, Tate suggested the woman wanted to talk to Graham, he testified.
Charges against Graham were dropped in January after a military judge said statements he made during an investigation would not be admissible during a trial.
Prosecutors have described the woman as so drunk she blacked out, walking and talking but not remembering what was going on. Several of the woman’s classmates testified Tuesday, and two of them who described themselves as friends said she was drunk at the party. Tate’s attorneys, meanwhile, argued that the woman was in control of her body and able to make her own decisions, including those about sex.
Tate has elected to have a judge decide his case. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge he faces, aggravated sexual assault, his lawyer said.
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