A Case Too Weak For A Court-martial

 

Cadet Alexander Stevens is a cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA). He is accused of breaking into the room of a female cadet of lower rank in Chase Hall and sexually abusing her.

On or about April 4, an anonymous person of great intellect and enormous insight left the following comment on my blob at cgachasehall.blogspot.com. I was so impressed by it that I reproduce it here without alteration or editing.

QUOTE:

This is not a case of sexual assault; the evidence presented by the government failed to prove anything more than the fact that there is a systemic problem of alcohol abuse and confusion over dorm room locations running rampant at the USCGA. Multiple witnesses confirmed the events of the night as purported by Cadet Stevens. Moreover, they confirmed that it is a too-frequent occurrence for over-intoxicated cadets to return to Chase Hall and accidentally walk into the wrong room. The alleged victim’s own roommate testified to that fact without reservation.

Doors have locks, the roommate also confirmed, but cadets are not permitted keys; only the XO has a master key to unlock doors. The only way a cadet could secure his/her room is when all occupants are safely inside. This is surely a contributor to issues of unspeakable theft, vandalism and abuse current and former cadets can tell.

The Article 32 Hearing was a manufactured event architected by someone with an agenda that goes beyond the unfortunate incident that occurred in the wee hours of September 15. Yes, Cadet Stevens was drunk and made a horrible mistake. But it was not assault and any reasonable person who looks at all of the evidence will quickly come to this conclusion. To reach any other decision is an overt decision to falsely accuse – and ruin – the character and integrity of the very same honor all cadets represent.

Admiral Stosz has issues within her ranks of leadership, character and courage; she needs to look at the culture of Chase Hall and question why cadets are abusing alcohol and questioning if the restrictive weekday rigor and lax weekend liberty — call it Feast or Famine — is modeling the lifestyle and behaviors that mold tomorrow’s Coast Guard leaders. These are far greater issues than addressing Cadet Steven’s long overdue Mast for drunkenly walking into another’s room in error.

I, for one, did not lose the irony of the drawn-out investigation culminating with a hearing that began with the start of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Prevention and Awareness Month. This is showmanship at the taxpayer’s expense, folks, and nothing more.

UNQUOTE

 

The Coast Guard prosecutor, Lt. Tyler McGill, has alleged that Cadet Stevens  was on a mission for sexual gratification that September night. The room Stevens entered was about 300 feet from his girlfriend’s room.

“Cadet Stevens did not walk into the room right next door,” McGill said.

Lt. John Cole, Cadet Stevens’ Assigned Military Defense Counsel, said the government didn’t prove sexual intent. He claims Stevens was drunk at the time and made a mental mistake.

Just because he accidentally touched the wrong cadet’s leg doesn’t mean he should go to court martial,” Cole said.

Cole argued that Stevens should face administrative punishment, which can include expulsion. Administrative punishment is not criminal in nature. Non-judicial punishment (NJP) under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the lowest form of criminal proceeding available to the military. Above NJP there are three levels of courts-martial. They are a Summary, a Special and a General Court-matial. They differ in the maximum amount of punishment they can award to a convicted member. A court martial is a Federal Criminal Trial and can lead to prison time if the person is convicted.

The Article 32 pretrial investigation is similar to a civilian grand jury. It is used to determine wheteher there is enough evidence to refer the case to a court-martial.

A hearing in the form of an Article 32 Investigation was held  Wednesday April 2nd at the Coast Guard Academy. The Article 32 Investigating Officer (IO) has not yet made a recommendation. The IO could recommend that the case be dismissed, dealt with administratively or referred for trial by court-martial.

Usually the accused usually does not testify at an Article 32 Hearing.

Most smart Defense Counsels do not let their clients testify at an Article 32 Hearing. They use that opportunity to discover the Government’s case. They get a chance to see how much evidence the Government has and how strong it is.

Cadet Stevens, who is accused of abusive sexual contact, housebreaking and unlawful entry, did not testify.

 

The Testimony was weak.

The female complaining witness testified that a man entered her room in the middle of the night, touched her on her thigh and moved his hand up her leg before she screamed and kicked him.

“I remember someone fumbling with my blanket that was on top of me and touching my leg,” she said, describing skin-to-skin contact and the swirling motion of a hand moving up her leg. “I kicked my legs and I screamed.”

The man either fell or jumped off her bed and fled. She says she chased him and located a friend.

“I kept telling him (the friend) that’s not right,” she said, noting that she was shaking and crying.

The cadet said she found it hard to sleep and concentrate after the encounter, and her grades suffered.

“I think he should be kicked out of the Coast Guard. I think he should be a registered sex offender, and I think he should go to jail,” she said.

Cadet Stevens’ explanation Is credible and exculpatory.

Stevens said in an interview that he went into the fellow cadet’s room and touched her with his hand, said Eric Gempp, a special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). Stevens said he was startled when the cadet said, “Hey!” He quickly left the room, Stevens told investigators.

Stevens said he went into the room by mistake, believing it was his girlfriend’s room, Gempp testified.

Defense Counsel was able to get the accused’s statements into the record without him taking the witness stand.

Chief Robert Cain testified that Stevens voluntarily came to him and told him during a night of drinking he got into an argument with his girlfriend. Cain said Stevens told him after returning to his room that he decided to apologize and went to what he thought was his girlfriend’s room, tapped her on the leg and realized he was in the wrong room.

Another cadet testified that classmates often go into the wrong rooms, but said the mistake typically involves going into a room one or two doors away.

The only cadet ever court-martialed at the academy, Webster Smith, was tried in 2006 at a General Court-martial and convicted on extortion, sodomy and indecent assault charges.

 

(The Webster Smith Case was appealed all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. It is fully documented in a book entitled “Conduct Unbecoming An Officer and a Lady” available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-Conviction/dp/1460978021 )

The Article 32 investigating officer (IO) in this case could recommend that the alleged offenses be dismissed, dealt with administratively, or referred for trial by court-martial.

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