The defense counsel for a Marine major charged with raping a former female midshipman at the Naval Academy attacked the testimony of the alleged victim, who took the stand Wednesday, describing the charges against his client as "fabrications" and "fantasies."
Marine Maj. Mark A. Thompson, who was a history instructor at the Naval Academy at the time of the alleged assaults, has been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of fraternization, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.
The charges stemmed from binge drinking by a group that included Thompson at a croquet match between the Naval Academy and St. John's College, a liberal arts school in Annapolis, on April 30, 2011.
A female midshipman, who allegedly had been having an affair with Thompson, brought along a second female midshipman to Thompson's apartment after the match. They continued drinking and played strip poker, according to the charge sheet, after which Thompson allegedly had sex with both midshipmen.
The second midshipman later told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service she had been raped. Military.com will not name this former midshipman as it is Military.com’s policy is not to name sexual assault victims or potential sexual assault victims.
The main accuser testified that she was too drunk to remember details of the night she and a second female midshipman allegedly had sex with the defendant at his apartment.
"On a scale of 1-10, I was probably an eight" with 10 being totally inebriated, the former midshipman, now a Marine second lieutenant, said of her drinking with friends at a Saturday afternoon croquet match against nearby St. John's College on April 30, 2011.
That was before she went with another female midshipman to Thompson's apartment, where she had shots of tequila, the lieutenant testified.
"I could still walk and everything, but I think my judgment and motor skills were slurred," she said.
The trial counsels, or prosecutors, put the lieutenant on the stand first to back up their charges that Thompson was a predator taking advantage of two young women who looked to him as a mentor.
In his opening remarks, Lt. Cmdr. Philip Hamon, co-counsel to chief prosecutor Navy Cmdr. Aaron Rugh, said that Thompson had been having a relationship with one of the midshipman, who has since been publicly identified as Navy Ensign Sarah Stadler.
Stadler brought her friend to Thompson's apartment where they both played strip poker and then had sex, Hamon said. The alleged victim "has vague memories that something bad happened between her and Major Thompson," Hamon said.
Marine Maj. Joseph Grimm, the lead defense counsel, flatly rejected the charges that he said were made up by two women caught up in a web of lies over their own misbehavior.
"He is the victim here," Grimm said of Thompson. "He has never had sex [with the lieutenant]. He has never had sex with Stadler. He's the victim of false accusations. He’s the victim of collusion," Grimm said.
Grimm also said that Thompson had a solid alibi. Thompson's girlfriend would testify that she and Thompson went to dinner on the night of his alleged wrongdoing and that she then spent the night with him, Grimm said.
Grimm earlier had charged that the false accusations were given credence by military superiors eager to pursue cases of sexual assault after Defense Department reports cited a growing problem with sex abuse in the ranks.
The alleged victim said she had looked up to Thompson as the officer representative to the Academy's rifle team. She was a member of the rifle team and Stadler was the team manager in 2011, the lieutenant said.
After a match at West Point, Stadler stayed in Thompson's hotel room for the night and they began a relationship, the lieutenant said. Stadler grew jealous when she thought Thompson might have another girlfriend, the lieutenant said, and coaxed the lieutenant to go with her to Thompson’s off-campus apartment near the Naval Academy's main gate after the croquet match to confront him.
Thompson allegedly invited them in, and that led to tequila drinking, strip poker and sex, the lieutenant said. She said she remembered lying naked on a bed, with a naked Stadler next to her, and Thompson getting on top of her.
"I was kind of confused," she said. "It was like I knew something was happening but I couldn't do anything. Then he was on top of me. I'm not really sure if I struggled. I don’t think I did."
Lt. Cmdr. Angela Tang, the defense co-counsel, attacked the lieutenant's credibility in more than two hours of cross examination.
The lieutenant acknowledged that she never reported the alleged sexual assault until January 2012, and only then made the report after confiding in an ex-boyfriend that "something not so good happened" with Thompson. The ex-boyfriend, who was also expected to testify at the trial, then told the lieutenant's rifle team coach, who convinced her to make a report, she said.
"I tried to tiptoe around it but then I told him," she said of the coach.
Tang attacked inconsistencies in what the lieutenant told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in oral and written reports, and what she had just told the jury. "I don’t know why I didn’t spell it out more," the lieutenant said.
Tang noted that the lieutenant testified in an Article 32 proceeding, similar to a grand jury, about taking a shower at Thompson's apartment after the alleged sexual assault but never mentioned that to the NCIS.
"I kind of forgot about it," the lieutenant said.
Tang also repeatedly went back to a text message she admitted sending to Stadler after her interview by the NCIS, telling Stadler that the NCIS would also be interviewing her.
"She had asked me what to say," the lieutenant said. Her text message to Stadler said: "Say anything and everything – Ha Ha," according to the NCIS. Stadler replied "Ha Ha, got it."
The lieutenant insisted she was not being flip about charges that could possibly lead to a jail sentence for Thompson. She said she often writes "Ha Ha" at the end of text messages, no matter the context.