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US government alleges a pattern of behavior in court-martial of midshipman charged with sexual assault

U.S. Naval Academy sign (Rdsmith4/Flickr)

The U.S. government rested its case Saturday in the court-martial of Midshipman 3rd Class Nixon Keago, who is being charged with sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, obstruction of justice and burglary.

Attorneys for the government Lt. Cmdr. Chris Cox, Lt. Cmdr. Paul LaPlante and Lt. Josh Won laid out their version of the case, alleging Keago had a pattern of behavior attempting and sexually assaulting women he drank with.

“Unwanted, unwelcome, unforgettable,” Cox said in his opening statements.

The charges against Keago stem from four incidents with three midshipmen in 2018 and 2019.

The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Keago committed each of these crimes, based on the legal definitions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military’s book of laws and the judge’s instructions to the eight-person member panel.

The UCMJ lists several definitions for sexual assault, but the ones that are most applicable to Keago’s court-martial are that a person cannot commit a sexual act upon another person without consent or when a person cannot consent because the instigator reasonably knows the person is asleep or the person is under the influence of a drug or intoxicant.

Sexual act, under the UCMJ, has three definitions, but the most applicable one is that there must be penetration of the genital area, a broader definition compared to state law. State law defines penetration as the insertion of the penis or object into the vagina. .

A large part of the government’s strategy, as well as the defense which aims to sow seeds of doubt, focused on whether or not penetration occurred during the two sexual assault incidences and the intoxication level of the three alleged victims.

Keago’s alleged victims, two midshipman and an ensign, all testified as part of the government’s case, and their stories shared similar elements. The Capital does not identify victims of sexual violence.

They all testified they returned to their beds after drinking, went to sleep and woke up to find Keago in their bed uninvited.

The first midshipman testified Keago was on top of her, actively sexually assaulting her when she woke up.

The ensign, who Keago allegedly targeted twice, testified that she woke up to Keago hovering over her and pain in her vaginal area.

The third alleged victim, a midshipman, testified that she had told Keago to leave multiple times but he kept coming back. One of the times, she woke up to find him next to her, kissing her neck.

The government also called other witnesses in an attempt to prove Keago’s habitual behavior.

On Friday, Midshipman Lauren Bump testified that Keago walked into her dormitory room late at night. She was in the room with her two roommates. They were all getting ready to sleep, she said.

Bump had just been on watch and said she saw Keago, who was a year above her, return to Bancroft Hall after he had some drinks that night.

Bump heard her creaky door open and saw Keago standing in the room. Her roommate, Midshipman Jeannie Ko, heard her ask Keago what he was doing and to leave.

Bump said she had to ask Keago to leave twice before he did.

Both Bump and Ko testified that they received emails from Keago after in which he apologized for coming into their rooms.

Keago’s ex-girlfriend Jeremiya Norris also testified Saturday. Keago stayed with her during his spring break in 2019.

The night before Keago flew back to the academy, he went into a bedroom where a woman was sleeping. Keago and the ex-girlfriend had been drinking all day, she said, and Keago was drunk.

“I felt like he was going to do something, cheat on me basically,” Norris said.

She found him inside the bedroom standing over the bed.

Next the defense will have an opportunity to further present its side of the story Monday when the court-martial resumes. It is lead by attorneys Lt. Cmdr. Andrea Kissner and Lt. Dan Phipps.

The defense’s strategy has been to focus on inconsistencies in the testimonies. They pointed out how each testimony from the three victims differs from the statements made to NCIS. The government did not call any NCIS officers to testify.

With the ensign, Kissner highlighted that while the ensign testified Wednesday that she told her friend nearly immediately after the first time Keago allegedly sexually assaulted her, the ensign did not tell NCIS investigators about the conversation.

With the third victim, Kissner pointed out that the midshipman did not detail how much she drank.

Alcohol consumption was another focus of the defense, with multiple questions asked to each of the victims about how much they drank each night.

With the prosecution’s case rested, the defense will take the lead Monday to present its version of the events and call its own witnesses when the court-martial resumes.


© 2020 The Capital