Defense continues to question midshipman in sexual assault case

The Naval Academy midshipman who has accused three classmates of having sex with her while she was passed out at an off-campus party turned defensive on her third day of testifying during a military hearing.

As she was cross-examined Friday morning, the midshipman appeared irritated at having been asked the same questions repeatedly. She often prefaced her answers with "as I stated previously."

The woman was more forceful in her answers than on previous days, including when one of the defense attorneys asked her if she willfully lied to Navy investigators early on in the case.

The woman had previously acknowledged that she didn't initially cooperate with investigators and told them she wasn't giving them all of the information she had about the night. She said she thought it was her right to do so.

"I didn't have to tell them what I knew," she said.

The woman eventually decided to cooperate with investigators, and now a hearing is under way to help determine whether three midshipmen -- all former members of the football team -- should go to a court martial.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy superintendent, ordered the Article 32 hearing to help him decide whether to refer the three midshipmen to a court-martial, impose administrative sanctions or dismiss the charges.

Midshipman Tra'ves Bush and Midshipman Joshua Tate could face charges of aggravated sexual assault in the incident that is alleged to have occurred at an off-campus party in Annapolis in April 2012. Midshipman Eric Graham is facing a charge of abusive sexual contact. All three could be charged with making false official statements.

Bush, Tate and Graham have not testified during the hearing or commented publicly on the allegations.

The accusations come at a time of rising concern over sexual assault in the military.

The Pentagon estimates as many as 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 the year before.

The midshipman has testified that she drank heavily and has only spotty memories of the night and does not remember having sex with any of the men. She pieced together what happened through social media and what other midshipmen have said.

She acknowledged having consensual sex with another midshipman the morning after the party.

The hearing opened at the Washington Navy Yard on Tuesday and is expected to last into the holiday weekend.

The midshipman is the only witness who has testified thus far. Other midshipmen have been waiting to testify and Tate's lawyers indicated they planned to call the midshipman's lawyer, Susan Burke, to testify as well. Navy Cmdr. Robert P. Monahan Jr., the officer conducting the hearing, said Friday he does not have the authority to force a civilian to testify.

After weighing testimony and other evidence, Monahan will make a recommendation to Miller, who will decide any further action.

pwood@baltsun.com