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Academy sex assault case sets limit on length accuser must testify

Justice SystemUnited States Naval Academy

WASHINGTON — A military officer presiding at a hearing on accusations by a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman that she was sexually assaulted by three academy football players agreed Sunday to limit the amount of testimony she must give, after her lawyers complained she was exhausted.

The female midshipman said she was sexually assaulted in April 2012 while she was blacked out after drinking at an off-campus "football house" party in Annapolis.

Tra'ves Bush, 22; Eric Graham, 21; and Joshua Tate, 21, have been accused in the case. The Article 32 hearing will determine whether the three mishipmen are charged. Bush and Tate could face charges of aggravated sexual assault. Graham is facing a charge of abusive sexual contact. All three could be charged with making false official statements.

The woman in this case, now a Naval Academy senior, had been questioned, with periodic breaks, by defense attorneys for more than 20 hours since Wednesday afternoon, with one hearing lasting more than 12 hours.

Lawyers for the woman said she could not give clear and accurate testimony because she was so exhausted by the long hours spent on the witness stand.

On Sunday, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing granted a request to limit her time on the stand to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., or essentially to no more than nine hours a day. She will also be entitled to take breaks from the testimony at least every 90 minutes.

The woman, who was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the alleged incident, was initially uncooperative with investigators. In explanation, she said she did not want to get anyone in trouble and that she feared her mother would force her to leave the school.

During cross examination Sunday, a lawyer for Tate argued the woman was not sufficiently afraid of Tate considering the allegations because the summer after the alleged assault, she got on a boat at a party where Tate was present. She went inside the boat and had a conversation with him.

"Would it be fair to say you weren't intimidated by Josh Tate at his point in time?" the lawyer, Jason Ehrenburg, asked.

She responded: "I felt … I had no reason to be intimidated at that specific instance."

She was also questioned at length Sunday by Graham's attorney, Lt. Commander Angela Tang, as to whether she deleted her Twitter account to hide potential evidence from investigators — an allegation she denied.

The woman said she filed an assault report at the urging of a fellow student and volunteered to accept punishment for underage drinking. She sought legal help in early 2013.

Bush, Graham and Tate are no lomger on the school's football team. Bush's graduation in May was put on hold pending the outcome of the case. Graham is a senior, and Tate is a junior.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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