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Midshipman describes night of drinking before alleged sex assault

The midshipman who says she was sexually assaulted by three Naval Academy football players while she was incapacitated last spring described a boozy night of partying that left her with spotty memories and a knot in her back.

Testifying Wednesday at a preliminary military hearing, the woman said it was only after the party that she pieced together what might have happened to her through Twitter and Facebook posts and rumors that swirled around the academy.

She said she was reluctant to report her suspicions about the night of April 14, 2012, for fear it would lead to an embarrassing and painful investigation. She said she eventually agreed to cooperate with Navy investigators months later when she worried that they might implicate innocent midshipmen.

"I was scared," she said. "I didn't want anyone else to get in trouble. Seeing what people went through before, I think I just didn't have the courage. I didn't want my mom to find out."

The woman testified during the second day of the Article 32 hearing at the Washington Navy Yard. The Baltimore Sun does not identify alleged victims in sexual assault cases.

Midshipmen Tra'ves Bush and Joshua Tate could face charges of aggravated sexual assault. Midshipman Eric Graham could be charged with abusive sexual contact. Each could be charged with making false official statements.

The accused have not testified or commented publicly on the case.

The hearing opened this week amid rising concern over sexual assaults in the military. The Pentagon estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted last year, up from 19,000 the year before. The number of incidents reported rose to 3,374, a 6 percent increase.

President Barack Obama raised the issue during his commencement address at the academy in May, when he said sexual assaults undermine the military's strength.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller ordered the Article 32 hearing to determine whether the accused should be prosecuted.

The proceeding, led by Cmdr. Robert P. Monahan Jr., is expected to continue at least through the end of the week.

After weighing testimony and other evidence, Monahan will write a report for Miller, the academy superintendent, who can refer the accused for court-martial, order other sanctions, or dismiss the charges.

Tate and Graham are enrolled at the academy. Bush has completed his academic requirements but has not been commissioned as an officer pending the outcome of the investigation.

Bush and Tate have played linebacker for the football team. Graham, a cornerback, has not seen any playing time on the varsity. None of the three is listed on the current football roster.

Each is represented by his own team of military and civilian attorneys.

The alleged victim recounted a night of drinking, starting with shots of rum in Bancroft Hall, the academy dormitory and continuing at an off-campus party in the Annapolis house known to midshipmen as the "black pineapple" or the "football house."

The party had a "yogas and togas" theme, she said, with women wearing yoga pants and men in togas.

At some point, the midshipman said, she became separated from her friends. She said she has brief memories from the evening — sitting in the back of a car with several midshipmen, including Tate and Graham, and sitting clothed on a bed talking to Bush — before she passed out on a couch.

The next day, she said, "I realized I didn't remember pretty much anything."

She remained calm throughout her testimony and cross-examination by an attorney for Bush, which lasted all afternoon and into the night.

She occasionally twirled beads in her hands. She teared up a couple of times, including when she described revealing to a medical corpsman a few days after the party that she had had sex, but didn't know how many times or who with.

Andrew Weinstein, Bush's civilian attorney, spent hours cross-examining the woman. He asked about her drinking history, questioned her about her conduct offenses at the academy and honed in on details of the party.

The woman's testimony offered a glimpse into an alcohol-fueled social scene at the academy.

She described a party packed with people, drinking and "grinding" on the dance floor. She acknowledged that she had had a prior sexual relationship with Bush — though she said they were not dating exclusively — and said she had consensual sex with another midshipman after she awoke the next morning at the party house.

Cross examination is expected to continue Thursday. Other midshipmen might also testify.

pwood@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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