July 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay Air Force lieutenant faces August court martial
Josh Seefried, gay news, Washington Blade, OutServe, SLDN

Josh Seefried (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay former U.S. Marine lieutenant who has accused gay Air Force Lt. Joshua Seefried of sexually assaulting him in a New York hotel room in 2012 testified at a pre-court martial hearing for Seefried on Monday that he has served recently as a military trainer in forums about sexual assault.

The former Marine testified that he served as a panelist in military forums addressing the issue of sexual assault in the military prior to his discharge from the Marines last year, which he said was based on his decision not to re-enlist for another term.

The former Marine discussed his role as a trainer and occasional speaker on sexual assault issues in response to questions by Seefried’s attorney, Richard Stevens.

Stevens didn’t say why he raised the issue of the former Marine’s role as a trainer on the subject of sexual assault during the part of the hearing that was open to the public.

But Stevens, among other questions, asked the former Marine, “Did you discuss your case or your personal experience in these trainings?”

“No,” the former Marine replied.

Stevens said later in the hearing after the former Marine completed his testimony that the defense is concerned that the former Marine could have developed a false assumption that consent for sex was not possible under certain circumstances.

The judge presiding over the hearing, Lt. Col. Andrew Kalavanos, asked members of the public and a Washington Blade reporter to leave the hearing room at Bolling Air Force Base in Southeast D.C. so that two closed sessions could be conducted. Neither Kalavanos nor the opposing attorneys in the case disclosed why the two sessions were closed.

Air Force prosecutors have charged Seefried, who in 2010 cofounded the LGBT military group OutServe, of engaging in wrongful and abusive sexual conduct and forcible sodomy. The charges stem from accusations by the former Marine that Seefried allegedly performed sexual acts on him in Seefried’s New York hotel room while the then Marine was intoxicated and unable to give consent.

A military investigator who presided over two proceedings similar to a civilian grand jury known as Article 32 hearings in the Seefried case concluded after both proceedings that there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegations against Seefried and that a court martial would most likely result in an acquittal.

The investigator, Col. Robert Preston, issued his second recommendation against a court martial and for dropping the charges against Seefried after a U.S. Coast Guard officer testified that he had been with Seefried and the Marine at the hotel room when the sexual assault allegedly occurred. The Coast Guard officer, Lt. Commander John Fiorentine, testified that the Marine had consented to a three-way sexual encounter with him and Seefried.

Despite this testimony and Preston’s recommendations for dismissing the case, Maj. General Darryl Burke, commander of the Air Force District of Washington, overruled Preston’s recommendations and ordered that the case go to court martial.

During an April 4 arraignment for Seefried’s case, his military attorney disclosed that Seefried had submitted a request to resign from the Air Force in lieu of a court martial, but the attorney, Capt. Allen Abrams, didn’t disclose the response to that request. Sources familiar with the case, however, said Air Force prosecutors and Burke agreed to the resignation request but were overruled by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who insisted that the case go to court martial.

Also testifying at Monday’s hearing was Fiorentine who, like the former Marine, was dressed in civilian clothes, indicating that he, too, is no longer in the military.

In response to questions by Stevens, Fiorentine described his own training in the Coast Guard as an investigator with skills in interviewing and interrogating Coast Guard members in military police-related matters.

Fiorentine is expected to be one of as many as 20 witnesses called by the defense, along with the former Marine, at the court martial, which has been scheduled to begin on Aug. 22.

 

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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