Court-martial at Air Force Academy reveals forbidden trysts in classrooms

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Court-martial at Air Force Academy reveals forbidden trysts in classrooms

by: Tom Roeder, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) | .
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published: October 13, 2016

An Air Force Academy judge will decide whether a victim who didn't speak still meant "no" in an alleged sexual assault of a female cadet in a campus classroom.

Prosecutors on Tuesday opened the case by claiming the woman was frozen by fear during the 2015 incident with cadet Jackson Spalding. Defense attorneys contend the woman fabricated the rape claim after feeling regret over a consensual incident.

"Can you believe her as a witness?" defense attorney Capt. Diane Ingram asked Judge Lt. Col Marvin Tubbs, who is hearing the case without a jury. "Absolutely not."

The female cadet who brought the allegation was on the witness stand for more than three hours of often-tearful testimony describing the incident, which took place on a Friday night in an unused classroom of Fairchild Hall, which houses the academia departments of the school.

"I wanted to get up and go," the woman testified. "My body still wasn't moving."

The Gazette does not routinely name alleged victims of sexual crimes.

Spalding is charged with grabbing the woman's genitalia under her clothes, fondling her breasts and forcing her to touch his genitals after inviting her to the classroom to watch a movie.

The trial revealed a seamy side of life at the academy, including cadets testifying that Fairchild Hall is called "Fairchild hotel" by freshman cadets. Freshmen at the school, as Spalding and the woman were at the time of the alleged crime, have few freedoms, but are allowed to venture out of the dorms to study in Fairchild.

Ingram said it's also a place where freshmen slip into classrooms for forbidden trysts.

"It's commonly known to all cadets," she said.

The female cadet testified that she wasn't looking for sexual contact when she agreed to meet Spalding to watch "Star Trek" and was surprised when others didn't join them in the classroom.

She said she was wordless and rigid when Spalding pulled her into a chair and unzipped her flight suit.

"I've never had anyone else do anything like that to me," she said.

The woman testified that the incident stopped when she found her voice and refused to give Spalding oral sex.

Defense attorneys asked the cadet repeatedly about her unvoiced opposition to Spalding's advances.

"You never said no?" she was asked at at least a dozen times, in slightly different forms.

To each of the queries, the woman responded, "No, sir."

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday, with Tubbs expected to issue a verdict this week.

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