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Midshipman claims alleged assault victim was aware during party encounter

Sexual AssaultSexual MisconductVehiclesJustice System

A Naval Academy midshipman once accused of sexual assault testified for the first time in open court Tuesday, telling a military judge that when he got into a car with a female classmate outside a 2012 off-campus party, he didn't think she was too drunk to know what she was doing.

Midshipman Eric Graham said the alleged victim might have smelled of alcohol, but was talking and moving around on the night of a party that resulted in accusations of sexual assault against Graham and two others.

"I didn't see anything wrong with her," he testified during a deposition in military court at the Washington Navy Yard.

Graham's deposition was the first time any of the three accused midshipmen, all former Navy football players, have spoken publicly about a case that has garnered national attention during a focus on sexual assault in the military.

His comments seemed to contradict those of the alleged victim, who has testified she drank excessively before and during the April 2012 party. She has said she only has spotty memories of the night but believes she may have been assaulted, in part based on rumors and social media postings after the party.

The Baltimore Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Graham said on a scale of one to 10 — with 10 being sober and one being nearly passed-out drunk — he felt the alleged victim was "about a seven or a six" when he encountered her.

Following the deposition, the judge, Col. Daniel Daugherty, ordered prosecutors to file papers showing how they intend to prove the alleged victim was so drunk that she could not have consented to any sexual act.

Graham is a potential witness in the case against Midshipman Joshua Tate, who is facing a court-martial on charges of aggravated sexual assault and making false statements. Graham was initially charged too, but charges were dropped after a judge ruled his statements were inadmissible because he had not been read his Miranda rights. After his case was withdrawn, Graham was offered immunity to be a prosecution witness.

A third midshipman initially implicated, Tra'ves Bush, was not formally charged and is now an ensign in the Navy.

Tate's defense team has filed motions to dismiss the case, claiming that academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller faced political pressure to file charges, that Tate was selectively prosecuted and that the prosecution hasn't presented sufficient evidence.

Daugherty indicated he will rule on the motions next week.

Graham testified that at one point at the party, Tate got out of a parked car and told Graham the alleged victim was in the vehicle and wanted to talk with him. Graham said he had been drinking before the encounter.

At times Graham seemed to struggle to remember details of the evening. "This event wasn't as significant to me as it is now," he said.

He claimed he was pressured by the alleged victim not to tell the truth about the night to Navy investigators, and acknowledged he had given inconsistent statements, such as saying his girlfriend was with him at the party when she wasn't.

Asked by prosecutors to explain, Graham said: "Honestly, I don't know. Basically I had a fear … I didn't want to get kicked out of school."

Graham's testimony about what happened in the car was moved behind closed doors under military rules that govern the way evidence regarding sex acts is handled in assault cases.

Graham appeared in court in his midshipman's uniform, but is currently in a "disenrollment process" from the academy, according to Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman.

Note: An earlier version of this story erred in the description of the "one to 10" scale described by Eric Graham. It has been corrected here.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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