NEW LONDON, Conn. – The star witness in a U.S. Coast Guard Academy court-martial testified Tuesday that she drank about two bottles of wine and blacked out the night she says she was raped by a fellow cadet.
The young woman, now an officer, said she remembered little about the night with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Webster Smith. Smith, 22, of Houston, has pleaded not guilty to rape, sodomy, extortion and assault charges that stem from allegations by four female cadets.
He is the first cadet to be court-martialed in the academy's history.
With no DNA or forensic evidence in the case, defense attorneys compared the court-martial to the Salem witch trials, in which people were put to death based solely on stories concocted by young women.
The case centers on a night of heavy drinking last summer in Annapolis, Md.
"I would say I consumed definitely over a bottle of wine," Smith's accuser testified, referring to large, 1.5-liter bottles propped on the defense table. "I'd say, about two bottles of wine that night."
Smith's accuser testified that she blacked out early in the night and learned the next morning that she and Smith had had sex. Smith told her the condom had broken and recommended she seek emergency contraception, but she did not know whether to believe him, she said.
She also said she could not remember details about that morning, including what she was wearing or whether she looked for physical evidence indicating they'd had sex. Weeks later, she took a home pregnancy test.
"When did you realize that the accused had actually had sex with you?" asked Cmdr. Ronald Bald, the military prosecutor.
"When I saw the positive result on the pregnancy test," she said.
"What did you think had happened?" Bald asked.
"I thought that I had been date-raped," she replied.
Defense attorneys tried to cast doubt on the accusation by pointing out that the relationship continued after the rape allegedly occurred. The following night, the woman acknowledged, she and Smith attended a concert with friends, then spent the night together in a hotel.
Also on the stand Tuesday was U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Kristin Strizki, a friend of the woman's who was with her the night of the alleged rape.
Testimony during pretrial hearings suggested that the woman had an abortion, but the military judge refused to allow any medical records into evidence Tuesday, saying it would prejudice the jury. Jurors were told only that the woman did not carry the child to term.
After returning to campus last fall, Smith and the women remained in contact, she testified. They exchanged affectionate e-mails and saw each other for dinner, she said, and months after the rape allegedly occurred, they had sex again in his car.
Prosecutors sought to cast Smith as a manipulative, controlling senior who preyed on vulnerable women. Other women in the case told prosecutors that Smith groped or sodomized them or tried to blackmail them for sex.
"When they were drunk and alone, he moved in. When they were helpless, he moved in. When they had nowhere left to turn, he moved in," Bald said during opening arguments.
Smith also faces charges of disobeying an order, unlawful entry and being absent without leave.
The court-martial is expected to take at least a week.