June 20, 2006

US Coast Guard cadet says raped by classmate

NEW LONDON, Connecticut (Reuters) - A former U.S. Coast
Guard Academy cadet learned she had been raped by a classmate
only when he advised her after the alleged assault to take a
morning-after contraceptive pill, the woman testified on

In the first court martial of a cadet in the Coast Guard
Academy's history, the witness said she did not remember the
June 3, 2005 incident because she had blacked out after
drinking two bottles of wine.

After she awoke the following morning, she said Cadet 1st
Class Webster Smith, 22, told her she needed contraception.

"I could not believe it would happen," said the woman, who
had dated Smith before the assault. "I was looking for the
truth. Webster had lied to me so many times in the past."

She brought charges against Smith several weeks later,
after learning she was pregnant.

Smith, a senior from Houston who played on the academy's
football team, has pleaded not guilty to 10 violations of the
military's code of justice, including rape, sodomy, extortion
and assault.

His case, in which at least five female cadets are expected
to testify, has renewed attention on sexual harassment at
America's military academies.

Coast Guard Commander Ronald Bald, the prosecutor, called
Smith "a man who manipulates women until they are helpless ...
he abused and took advantage of them."

Smith's attorney, Navy Lt. Stuart Kirkby, noted there was
no physical evidence of the charges and said the case hinged on
the testimony of several victims. "We are here to question
those stories," Kirkby said.

The accusations prompted the Coast Guard to begin an
Article 32 hearing under the military code of justice, similar
to a criminal investigation in civilian courts. Under those
rules, Smith is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

He is the first Coast Guard cadet to be accused of rape
since the academy began admitting women in 1976. It is the
smallest of five U.S. federal military academies, with
enrollment of just under 1,000.