Days Before Graduation, Senior Air Force Cadet on Trial for Rape

An evening thunderstorm is visible from the U.S. Air Force Academy's Fairchild Hall June 20, 2017, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)
An evening thunderstorm is visible from the U.S. Air Force Academy's Fairchild Hall June 20, 2017, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Instead of taking his last final exams Tuesday, Air Force Academy senior cadet Samuel Kyle Fuller listened to testimony during a court-martial that could send him to prison for rape just days before he expected to graduate and earn lieutenant's bars.

Prosecutors say witnesses saw Fuller with his pants down as he sexually assaulted a classmate who was so drunk she had to be half-carried back to her dormitory after a night at the only bar on campus.

Fuller's attorneys say the case is based on assumptions, and while the alleged victim claims no recollection of the attack, the attorneys said she had consented to sex.

"The government doesn't have a little bit of reasonable doubt, but reasonable doubt with every witness they put on," Fuller's civilian lawyer Patrick McLain told the military jury of seven men and two women as the trial started in an Academy courtroom Tuesday.

The defense faces a pile of evidence. Prosecutors on Tuesday said witnesses can detail the attack and are backed by forensic evidence that connects Fuller to the incident with DNA.

And under Academy regulations, male and female cadets are not allowed to be in the same dorm room. Sex is also banned in Academy buildings.

But the woman involved won't have much testimony to deliver, prosecutor Maj. Jessica Switzer told the jury.

"The last thing she remembers is walking up to the bar with the accused," Switzer said.

The whole thing started April 21, 2017, at Hap's -- the cadet watering hole named for Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, the only Air Force officer to earn five stars and a hero of World War II.

Academy juniors and seniors who have turned 21 can walk to the bar in Arnold Hall to relax with beer or wine after they've finished the duty day.

Fuller was at the bar with friends when he met the female cadet. She'd been drinking beer and polished off a bottle of wine, the prosecutors said. They had a few drinks together before they left Hap's at its closing time -- 11 p.m.

Witnesses said the woman was clearly tipsy before she left the bar but seemed lucid.

Prosecutors say the alcohol, though, took its toll. Fuller was spotted hauling her down a hallway in the Vandenberg dormitory.

"She couldn't walk on her own," Switzer said. "Cadet Fuller was fully supporting her."

The woman wound up in her dorm room with Fuller. Prosecutors say she passed out.

Classmates were worried about her, and a cadet went to her room to check on her, Switzer said. Upon opening the door, they spotted Fuller having sex with the woman, who appeared to be passed out, prosecutors said.

A cadet leader intervened and kicked Fuller out of the room. One of the academy's air officers -- active-duty majors who oversee cadet squadrons -- was called, along with the school's security forces.

The female cadet was carried to a car and hauled to a hospital, where she was examined as a possible rape victim.

McLain said Fuller was hauled away, too -- by agents from the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations.

"They took cadet Fuller in his sweats and flip-flops to an office for 11 hours of interrogation," McLain said.

Under questioning, Fuller admitted the girl had been drinking, McLain told the jury.

Fuller and his attorneys, though, say the senior did nothing wrong.

"This was a consensual, voluntary relationship."

Testimony in the case is expected to run through Thursday.

This article is written by Tom Roeder from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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