Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen 1st Class Matthew Cook on trial for alleged RAPE

Yesterday Navy Times reported:
"Court-martial begins for mid accused of rape"

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A male Naval Academy midshipman raped a female classmate while she was unconscious in her dorm room at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., after a night of binge drinking, prosecutors argued Tuesday during court-martial proceedings at the Washington Navy Yard.

Midshipman 1st Class Matthew Cook, a senior at the academy, is charged with aggravated sexual assault and wrongful sexual contact. His graduation was delayed pending the results of his court-martial.

While assigned as a trainer for incoming NAPS students that summer, prosecutors said Cook slipped into a fellow detailer’s room at King Hall after 2 a.m. Aug. 14, 2010, and startled her when she returned. They said the woman had no relationship with Cook, didn’t consent to sex and passed out from drinking after returning to her room.

She woke up in the middle of intercourse because his motions were violently banging her head against a desk nearby, but that she lacked the strength to stop him before passing out, prosecutors said.

“This is not a case of drunk sex,” Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Trest, said in her opening statement. “He knew she was too drunk to have sex and not interested but he did it anyways.”

Trest estimated the alleged victim consumed nine to 12 alcoholic drinks that night, as part of a larger celebration at Newport’s Rhino Bar because it was their last day on the detail.

Navy Times, as a policy, does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault without their permission.

Cook and the victim had kissed two weeks prior to the night the alleged assault occurred, but the two had broken off contact in the weeks since and there was no more relationship, sexual or otherwise, Trest said. The victim, who has since graduated and is now an ensign, is expected to testify in the court-martial.

The defense said they would show that varying details about the night in question and the victim’s inability to recall all of it would add up to a reasonable doubt that Cook assaulted his classmate.

The devil is in the details,” lead defense attorney Christopher Drewniak said in his opening remarks to the seven jurors, all of whom are naval officers. By the end of the court-martial, he continued, “You’ll find that the differing accounts ... create considerable doubt about what, if anything, happened that night.”

Drewniak telegraphed one of his likely strategies at the first day’s proceedings, while the jurors were sent out: The victim reported the alleged assault to officials for disciplinary action in March of 2011 — seven months after it supposedly occurred.

Drewniak asked a witness about why the victim may have reported it at that time, a question that was overruled.

But in closed session, Drewniak told judge Capt. Eric Price that he wanted the witness, a fellow senior on the NAPS detail, to say whether he heard any rumors about why the victim may have come forward then — namely embarrassment for having other students see Cook emerging from her room the following morning.
Prosecutors successfully argued that the answer to this question would be hearsay.

Cook sat quietly at the defense table all day, only saying “Yes, sir” seven times in answer to the judge’s questions at the end of the day’s session. He is a burly young man — he was a power-lifter at the academy and lifted in the 242 pounds weight class, a classmate testified — who put on his black wire-rimmed glasses occasionally to read during the court-martial.

Cook sat motionless while classmate Ens. Jonathan Luetkenhoelter testified that he had walked in the next morning and seen both Cook and the victim lying naked on a twin bed. Yet Luetkenhoelter, who lived in the room next to the victim, said he hadn’t heard any noise or banging from the previous night.

Drinking after hours was common on NAPS detail, and that night was no different, testified fellow detailer Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Timothy Berry, who said he was a friend of Cook’s who had also attended NAPS. Berry, then Cook’s roommate, said Cook left the room to make a phone call and didn’t return.

Two months later, Cook told him that he had spent that night with the victim in her room. Asked if he recalled Cook saying if the victim had been drunk and passed out, Berry responded: “I believe so.”

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