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Judge rebuffs motion to dismiss Air Force Academy rape case

May 8, 2018 Updated: May 8, 2018 at 6:08 am
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Monday, 5th March, 2007 photo by Kirk Speer. Air Force Academy cadet squadrons march to chow "lunch" after their morning schedules.

An Air Force Academy senior will head to court-martial on sexual assault charges Tuesday after a judge threw out his bid to have the case dismissed.

Attorneys for cadet Samuel Kyle Fuller argued Monday that a scandal in the school's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and ensuing publicity created a public perception that he couldn't get a fair trial at the school. They said the program's many problems, first detailed in a Gazette story last fall, and the reaction of academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, created an appearance that leaders at the school are overly eager for a conviction in Fuller's case.

"There has been a firestorm surrounding sexual assault here at the academy that coincides with the filing of this case," argued Maj. Ross Brennan, one of Fuller's attorneys.

The judge in the case, Col. Jefferson Brown, ruled that Fuller didn't have enough evidence to back his claims and ordered the case to trial.

Fuller faces a single count of sexual assault stemming from an incident on the night of April 21, 2017. According to charging papers, prosecutors claim Fuller had sex with a female classmate who was too drunk to give consent.

The prosecution has eyewitnesses and forensic evidence to back its case.

It also has statements from Fuller that defense attorneys asked to be excluded from the trial. That move was also rebuffed in court.

The defense, expected to hinge on whether the woman gave consent, includes expert witness testimony on the impacts of alcohol. That testimony could bolster claims that the woman consented to sex.

The court-martial comes as the academy emerges from a year of scandal surrounding the office that assists sexual assault victims.

In 2017, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the academy saw two-thirds of its staff suspended amid an investigation. The probe, which led to the firing of the office's director, Theresa Beasley, found that workers had been "derelict" in their care for victims.

In recent weeks, the academy hired a new director for the office and new staffers.

The school still faces an probe by the Pentagon's inspector general. It's unclear when that will be finished.

Fuller's trial is expected to be finished by Friday, with opening arguments in the case scheduled early Tuesday.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx

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