A Navy commander accused of trying to rape a junior officer will face a third trial -- but with fewer charges and a far shorter potential sentence -- after two previous trials ended with deadlocked juries.
On Wednesday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren ruled that Navy Cmdr. John Michael Neuhart II can be tried once again on charges of attempted forcible rape and assault with intent to commit rape.
But the defense -- which wanted all charges dropped -- came away with a notable victory. The judge agreed to dismiss three of the five charges Neuhart faced, including the most serious charge: assault with intent to commit rape during a residential burglary.
That charge carries a potential sentence of life in prison.
If convicted of the two remaining counts he faces, Neuhart is looking at a maximum of six years in custody.
Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong said his client has mixed emotions but is pleased the judge dismissed the most serious count.
"He doesn't want to face a third trial, but he also doesn't want to face life -- and that went away today," Armstrong said.
The 41-year-old is accused of forcing his way into the Valencia Park home of the junior officer and trying to rape her after a night of drinking in downtown San Diego on Sept. 12, 2016.
Neuhart -- who has been suspended from his command -- has said that the woman had given him permission to come over and have sex.
During the trials, jurors saw video evidence, including surveillance footage of the two kissing at a hotel earlier that night. They also heard from a hired driver who took them to the woman's apartment.
At some point, Neuhart set up his cellphone to face the back door of the woman's house and started recording -- a recording he said he made in case she accused him of rape.
In the video, the woman can be heard repeatedly screaming at Neuhart, telling him to leave and to stop pounding on the door.
Soon after, she lets him in. On the video, she is heard to say, "Why would you want a woman who doesn't want you?"
The woman, who had been under Neuhart's command in Guam, has testified that her repeated screams drew the attention of a neighbor.
When the neighbor yelled that he had a gun, Neuhart fled, running into a canyon where he fell and broke his leg. Police officers quickly caught up with him.
Neuhart's first trial ended with the jury voting 11-1 to convict him of assault with intent to commit rape during a burglary.
In the second trial, the jury divided 7-5 toward finding him guilty on that charge.
He will not face that charge at his third trial, which is set to start in February.
This article is written by Teri Figueroa from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.