WASHINGTON — Lawyers on Monday questioned U.S. Naval Academy students who attended a toga party last year about how intoxicated a female midshipman appeared at the off-campus house, where she allegedly was sexually assaulted by three students on the Navy football team.
The woman has testified she had been drinking heavily before and during the April 2012 party in Annapolis, Md. She has said she has no memory of having sex with the midshipmen, but became concerned after hearing gossip shortly after the party that she had had sex with multiple people.
During a hearing to help determine whether the three men will face a court-martial, attorneys have tried to establish just how intoxicated the woman was at the alcohol-fueled party. On Monday, they focused on the recollections of midshipmen who saw her there at the crowded house.
The day’s testimony wrapped up Monday evening and a final day of testimony was expected Tuesday.
Midshipman Christa Kamon testifed the woman was slurring her words and falling down while dancing.
“She was obviously drunk,” Kamon testified.
Defense attorneys questioned her recollection, saying she had not mentioned that the woman had been slurring her speech when Kamon talked to investigators in August 2012.
Attorneys also called Midshipman Kenyon Williams to the stand. Williams described himself as a close friend of the alleged victim who had been with her when she drank rum before going to the party.
Andrew Weinstein, an attorney for Midshipman Tra’ves Bush who is charged with aggravated sexual assault, asked Williams if his friend appeared intoxicated or slurred her speech. Williams responded no to both questions. He also testified he would have urged her to stop drinking at the party if he had believed she had had too much.
Weinstein also focused on a comment Williams made to Navy investigators – that the woman had told him a short time after the party that people would be gossiping about her and that what she had done the night before she had wanted to do.
Williams testified he could not remember exactly what he had told investigators, but he did not deny he made the statement.
Midshipman Mitchell Kempisty, who attended the party, said the woman seemed to be in control of her actions at the party.
Weinstein also called Midshipman Candice Tisdale to the stand. Tisdale, who described herself as a close friend of the woman, said she sat down with her after rumors spread around campus to make a list of whom she may have had sex with at the party.
Tisdale, a senior, testified that she strongly remembered the woman telling her that she thought she had had consensual sex with Bush early on while at the party before she had become more intoxicated. The woman has said she had a previous sexual relationship with Bush.
Midshipman Josh Tate also has been charged with aggravated sexual assault in the case. Midshipman Eric Graham has been charged with abusive sexual contact.
The Article 32 hearing at the Washington Navy Yard began last Tuesday. The hearing spanned the holiday weekend as an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service testified until late Sunday night. He described the investigation as one of the biggest he has experienced as a special agent.
Special Agent Jesus Torres testified that more than 100 interviews were conducted, with 20 to 30 midshipmen interviewed at least twice.
The case has drawn attention as the White House, Congress and the Pentagon have been focusing on the issue of sexual assault after a string of cases in the military this year.
President Barack Obama highlighted the importance of the issue at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony in May.