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Defense, prosecution rest in U.S. Naval Academy sex-assault case

By Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The defense and prosecution rested on Wednesday in the court-martial of a former U.S. Naval Academy football player accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman when she was drunk.

Final arguments are set for Thursday in the trial of Midshipman Joshua Tate, a senior from Nashville, Tennessee.

Judge Marine Colonel Daniel Daugherty could make a judgment later on Thursday in the trial, one of a spate of sexual misconduct cases roiling the U.S. military.

The trial, which began on Tuesday, has largely centered on whether the accuser, now a 22-year-old senior, was too drunk at the off-campus party in April 2012 to consent to having sex.

Three U.S. Naval Academy football players were initially accused but Tate was the only one to be court-martialed. Charges against the other two were dropped.

One of the other men, Midshipman Eric Graham, of Eight Mile, Alabama, testified that the woman made sexual advances to him on the night of the alleged assault.

"She looked at me and told me she wanted to have sex with me," said Graham, who testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution. Charges against him were dismissed largely because Navy investigators failed to read him his rights.

Graham, who is withdrawing from the Naval Academy, said that although he could smell alcohol on the woman's breath, she seemed to be in control of herself and making her own decisions.

STATEMENT IN COURT

The third man, Tra'ves Bush, now a Navy ensign, echoed Graham's testimony. He said in a statement presented in court that the woman "looked like she had been drinking but she was in control of herself."

The woman testified that she had been torn about cooperating with Navy investigators about the sexual assault allegations and had concealed from them how much alcohol she had drunk.

She has contended she did not remember having sex with the midshipmen because of her drunkenness and only learned about the encounter the next day through social media and classmates.

Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault victims. Tate is accused of aggravated sexual assault and making false official statements

Daugherty denied a request by Tate's attorneys to find their client not guilty because of what they said was a failure by prosecutors to present enough evidence for a conviction.

The Defense Department said in December that there were slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults across the armed forces in the fiscal year through October, up about 50 percent from the previous year.

Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller denied in a January hearing that he was under pressure to go ahead with prosecution even though his legal counsel and a military judge had advised him not to proceed.

(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Grant McCool and Sharon Bernstein)

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