AIR FORCE ACADEMY • Consent is at the center of an Air Force Academy sexual assault case, lawyers on both sides said Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Preparatory School cadet candidate Jefferson Hobbs knew women were resisting his advances, but he persisted with kissing and sex acts. Defense attorneys say Hobbs acted reasonably to the apparent advances of female classmates and stopped when they resisted.
“As is common in these cases, the devil is in the details,” said Hobbs’ defense attorney, Capt. Garrett Messerly, during the hearing.
Charges filed against Hobbs in March claim he kissed a woman against her will in August and sexually assaulted another woman in September. Both women also are cadet candidates at the Preparatory School, an institution at the academy that gives a year of rigorous English and math teaching to potential cadets who don’t meet the academy’s tough standards.
Cadet candidates in the program primarily fall into two categories: former enlisted airmen and recruited athletes, including Hobbs, a tennis standout.
Prosecutors admit that the evidence against Hobbs could be seen as hazy. But they contend that his statements to Air Force investigators are enough to see him court-martialed.
“You will see his admissions to the charged acts,” prosecutor Capt. Wade Iverson told a hearing officer.
While Iverson focused on Hobbs’ words, Messerly focused on the text messages sent by the alleged victims. One woman, who later accused Hobbs of sexual assault, sent a message to Hobbs that concluded with a depiction of a heart.
“She sent him a heart emoji,” Messerly said. “That is not the act of someone who is the victim of a sexual assault.”
Messerly contends that in the sex assault case, Hobbs acted with the woman’s consent and stopped when she asked.
In the accusation that he kissed a woman without her consent, Messerly said, Hobbs kissed the woman for a full minute before she objected.
Iverson said what started as consensual acts with Hobbs went farther than the women intended. And Hobbs, he said, ignored signs that the women wanted him to stop.
In the sexual assault, “it was clear to the accused that she was uncomfortable with the act.”
Messerly said that kind of gray area isn’t anticipated in the law.
“The defense position is this is not a crime at all,” he said.
The arguments of both sides will be encapsulated in a report to be sent to academy brass, who will decide if evidence is sufficient to merit a court-martial. A court-martial conviction on the most serious charge could land Hobbs behind bars for 30 years.
If leaders side with the defense, Hobbs still could be in trouble. Regulations at the preparatory school forbid even consensual sex on the campus.