Thursday, April 3, 2014
NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — A U.S Coast Guard Academy cadet should face a court martial for entering the room of a classmate and touching her leg, a government attorney said Wednesday, rejecting defense claims that the cadet accidentally went into what he thought was his girlfriend's room.
Cadet Alexander Stevens was on a mission for sexual gratification that September night, Lt. Tyler McGill said during a pretrial investigation at the academy. The room Stevens entered was about 300 feet from his girlfriend's room, McGill said, and noted that the classmate was lower in rank.
"Cadet Stevens did not walk into the room right next door," McGill said.
Lt. John Cole, who represented Stevens, said the government didn't prove sexual intent. He said 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 said Stevens should face administrative punishment, which can include expulsion. A court martial can lead to prison time if the person is convicted.
The pretrial investigation, similar to a civilian grand jury, will determine how to dispose of the case. An investigating officer presiding over Wednesday's hearing made no immediate recommendation. The officer could recommend that the case be dismissed, dealt with administratively or referred for trial by court-martial.
Stevens, who is accused of abusive sexual contact, housebreaking and unlawful entry, did not testify.
The classmate 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.
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. 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.
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 and convicted on extortion, sodomy and indecent assault charges.