According to testimony at a preliminary hearing Thursday, a female midshipman who accused three U.S. Naval Academy football players of raping her asked two of them to lie to investigators.
Tra'ves Bush, Eric Graham, and Joshua Tate are accused of sexually assaulting the woman last year while she was passed out after drinking at an off-campus party. The trial follows a series of high-profile military sexual assault cases, including some that involve personnel whose job it was to prevent sexual abuse in the first place.
Bush's defense attorney, Andrew Weinstein, submitted a two-minute recording of a telephone exchange between Tate and the woman in which she asked him to lie to Navy investigators during the case's early stages.
"I need you to say nothing happened," the woman said during the call recorded by Tate. "I hate to ask you to lie, but I don't want this to go anywhere."
The woman has testified she did not want to get anyone in trouble.
The incident in question reportedly occurred over a year ago at a party in an off-campus house in Annapolis. The alleged victim, who was a 20 year old sophomore at the time, says she woke up with bruises and no memory of the night before, but then "learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated," according to a statement made by her lawyer, Susan Burke.
The victim reported the incident to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at the time, but the accused were let off unpunished, and the case was closed, reportedly due to the victim's "unwillingness to cooperate." Meanwhile, she was punished for underage drinking and (wait for it) was forced to keep going to their football games.
When the woman sought legal help, the Navy agreed to reopen the investigation. The case, however, has experienced convoluted turns as the trial goes on.
During cross-examination, the alleged victim said she also told Graham to lie during the initial investigation, because at the time she did not want the case to proceed, out of fear her mother would force her to leave the Naval Academy.
Defense attorney Weinstein additionally challenged contradictory statements made by the woman to investigators last September, including the assertion she had "13 seconds of memory relating to sexual activity" that night, a statement she denied Wednesday.
Furthermore, the woman testified Tate was the only one of the accused who pressured her not to cooperate with investigators, contradicting an interview with CNN she gave in June in which said said all three had. Weinstein also reportedly "grilled" the woman on her sexual history with Bush (with whom she previously had a consensual sexual relationship) about her drinking.
Bush, Graham and Tate are also all charged with making false statements.
When the case was reopened in June, Burke warned this much:
...even if this case is successfully prosecuted, the larger problem remains: rape cases in the military are controlled by untrained and biased commanders whose career interests may be served by covering up incidents like this one. The Naval Academy's handling of this case raises troubling questions about how the victim and the football players were treated. This case reflects why rape victims are fearful and skeptical of the military justice system.