Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cadet Smith: Not guilty … but guilty

The first verdict in the Sea Services’ Summer Carnival of Courts Martial is in.
A panel of Coast Guard officers convicted cadet Webster Smith on five charges Tuesday, including coercing a female classmate into oral sex and sexually assaulting her. He faces up to 13½ years in a military brig.

He was acquitted of the more serious charge that he raped his former girlfriend, one of four women who testified against him over the past week and a half in the first court-martial of a cadet in the Coast Guard Academy's 130-year history.
After about eight hours of deliberation, the panel found Smith guilty of indecent assault, extortion in exchange for sexual favors and sodomy, which in military parlance includes oral sex. All those charges involved one of the four accusers.

He was acquitted of several charges that stemmed from alleged sexual encounters with the other three female cadets. The defense had argued that the sex was consensual and that the women had colluded against Smith.

With no physical evidence outside of e-mails and phone records, the trial pitted Smith's version of events against those of his accusers.
The guilty verdicts for indecent assault, sodomy and extortion all were tied to Smith's conduct with a female cadet, now an ensign, who alleged that Smith had come to her room on three occasions the night of Oct. 19, 2005.

The visits progressed from taking nude photographs to massages to oral sex. She said she had confided in Smith about something she had done during the summer that could hurt her military career.

Smith offered to help her squelch rumors about the incident but, the prosecution argued, also used the secret to coerce her into the sexual encounters.

Smith was acquitted of all charges involving his conduct with the remaining three women. One of those women, his former girlfriend, testified that he raped her after she became intoxicated during a party in Annapolis, Md., last June.
Not guilty of the charge that started it all, but guilty of offenses found in the course of the investigation of the one he is not guilty of. Read both above links - I'm not going to quote all the FOD there.

Here is the question: other Cadets and Midshipmen from Annapolis have committed offenses as well – all found out in the course of the investigation. Some are already Commissioned Officers. Will they be held to the same standard as Cadet Smith? If not, why? As a reader pointed out, one who is now a Midshipman admits that she was blackmailed as a result of her willful and deliberate posing for nude photographs. How does she expect to hold a security clearance? In the digital age, how many copies of those photos are out there? What will she do next time? A leader needs to take charge, because right now, there is gear adrift all over the Sea Service Academies.
UPDATE: Sentence is in:
A military jury has sentenced a Coast Guard cadet to six months incarceration and dismissed him from military service for sexually assaulting a female cadet last year and four other violations of the military code of conduct.
Also, this NavyTimes bit adds some more background:
Smith’s accuser testified that she blacked out early in the night and learned the next morning that she and Smith had had sex. Smith told her the condom had broken and recommended she seek emergency contraception, but she did not know whether to believe him, she said.

She also said she couldn’t remember details about that morning, including what she was wearing or whether she looked for physical evidence indicating they’d had sex.

Weeks later, she took a home pregnancy test.

“When did you realize that the accused had actually had sex with you?” asked Cmdr. Ronald Bald, the military prosecutor.

“When I saw the positive result on the pregnancy test,” she said.

“What did you think had happened?” Bald asked.

“I thought that I had been date-raped,” she replied.

Yet their relationship continued. The night after the rape allegedly occurred, the woman acknowledged, she and Smith attended a concert with friends and then spent the night together in a hotel.

Testimony during pretrial hearings suggested that the woman had an abortion, but the military judge refused to allow any medical records into evidence June 20, saying it would prejudice the jury. Jurors were told only that the woman did not carry the child to term.

The cadets remained in contact when they returned to campus, she said, exchanging affectionate e-mails and seeing each other for dinner. Months after the rape allegedly occurred, she said, they had sex in his car.
And while prosecutors say Smith was a controlling, emotionally abusive boyfriend, one of Smith’s friends testified that the young woman was equally to blame.

The friend said she was watching a movie with Smith last year when the girlfriend walked in.

“’How could you do that to me? How could you steal him from me,’” Bazinet recalled her classmate yelling. “It was scary.”

Of the four accusers in the case, a woman who testified June 22 was the only one who said she had not been drinking when she was assaulted. She described a night last fall on which she and Smith had a series of sexual encounters in her dorm room — she said all were unwelcome.

But she said she never resisted when they took naked photographs together and gave each other massages or when Smith slipped into bed next to her and performed oral sex on her. She then performed oral sex on him, even after he said she didn’t have to if she didn’t want to, she testified.

The woman, now an officer, said she was afraid to say no because she was relying on Smith to keep a secret, one involving a crime that could have jeopardized her career.
Still, we don't know the "crime."

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