Woman in Naval Academy sex assault case testifies

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WASHINGTON -- The woman at the center of a sexual assault case against a former Naval Academy football player testified Tuesday that the midshipman "kind of laughed" when she asked him if they had sex at an alcohol-fueled party and said: "What? You don't remember?"

On the opening day of Joshua Tate's trial, the alleged victim said she drank heavily at the 2012 party and didn't remember much of what happened that night. Mr. Tate, of Nashville, Tenn., faces charges of aggravated sexual assault and lying to investigators in a trial that turns on whether the woman was too drunk to consent to sex. The closely watched court-martial comes at a time when the military is under heavy scrutiny to curb sexual assaults in the armed forces.

During opening statements, prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Stormer described the woman as drinking "shot after shot after shot" and taking "swig and swig and swig" from an alcohol bottle. Cmdr. Stormer said the woman eventually became so drunk that she blacked out, walking and talking but not remembering what was going on.

One of Mr. Tate's attorneys, meanwhile, argued that the woman was able to make her own decisions, including those about sex. Cmdr. Art Record described the woman as "upright, walking around," having significant conversations, and even rebuffing one man's advances. "She was processing information," he said. "She was physically in control of her body."

Cmdr. Record said the woman later told a friend that the party was "crazy," and "what I did last night, I did it, and I wanted to do it." The alleged victim denied during her testimony that she made that statement.

After the party, the woman testified, she saw tweets suggesting that someone had sex with multiple people at the party. She said she came to believe that the statements were about her and asked Mr. Tate, who invited her to the party, what had happened. "He looked at me and he kind of laughed," the woman said during more than three hours of testimony. His reply was: "What? You don't remember?"

He confirmed that they had sex, the woman said, adding that Mr. Tate told her that she was "too turnt up." She later said that meant she was drunk.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name alleged victims of sexual assault. The alleged victim also testified during a preliminary hearing last fall.

Mr. Tate faces as much as 30 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, according to his attorney.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service began investigating within days of the April 2012 "Toga and Yoga" party -- during which men wore togas and women wore yoga pants -- at a house in Annapolis, Md., used by football players at the academy. But the alleged victim initially did not want to pursue charges.

Amid the investigation, President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of stamping out sexual assault during his speech to the academy's graduating class of 2013.

The case was closed without any charges, but reopened when the alleged victim began cooperating with Navy investigators. Prosecutors then accused Mr. Tate and two other students of sexually assaulting the woman during the party. Mr. Tate, now 22 and in his third year at the academy, is the only one who remains charged.

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