Coast Guard member convicted of rape in New Orleans court-martial

After a weeklong court-martial in the federal courthouse in New Orleans, a jury of eight Coast Guard members convicted one of their own Friday in the sexual assault of a female Coast Guard member in late 2012.

The jury of five women and three men deliberated for more than 12 hours over two days before finding Petty Officer 3rd Class Joe D. Newmans guilty on two counts of sexual assault and a count of assault “consummated by a battery” under military law.

He was acquitted on one count of the latter charge in connection with the Nov. 29, 2012, incident.

The jury was still weighing a sentence for Newmans late Friday night.

Newmans, 22, was days away from leaving the military service when he crawled into bed with the woman at her apartment in New Orleans after a get-together with fellow personnel and forced himself on her, the prosecution said. The woman, a close colleague, reported the incident the following day.

The jury apparently was swayed at least in part by her testimony that Newmans held her down, bruising her wrists and raping her despite her repeated demands that he stop.

Military attorneys for Newmans countered that she reported the incident only after her boyfriend grew angry, that she and Newmans had an intimate, growing friendship and that she told him to get a condom from another room before the alleged rape.

The woman, however, said she only wanted to protect herself from a sexually transmitted disease.

“He’d told me his past. He said he slept with like 40 people,” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”

The incident took place after a study session turned to drinking in the apartment, where Newmans lingered at the end of the night, then entered her room as she was going to sleep during the fourth quarter of a football game between the Saints and Falcons they’d been watching on TV.

“He got in the bed. I thought it was just to go to sleep. He started to try to touch me. I just told him to stop. Yelling at him,” she testified. “He wouldn’t. He was trying to stick his hand down my pants.”

“How was he trying?” asked Lt. Cmdr. Damian Yemma, a military prosecutor.

“He was.”

The same jury also was tasked with sentencing Newmans, whose relatives were allowed to first speak on his behalf after the verdict was returned.

“I know in my heart he would never intentionally hurt anyone,” said his tearful sister Miranda Newmans. “He’s a great role model for my son.”

Joe Newmans also stood, describing photos that flashed on a screen of him playing with his young niece and nephew and his own 3-year-old son. Newmans said he’d only twice met the boy, who lives with his mother in Michigan.

Two female jurors sniffled and dabbed tissues to their eyes as Newmans’ welled up. He stood facing the jury, smiling and weeping.

“I never had an angry thought about hurting someone. I feel terrible that the situation that did happen, happened. I can’t take it back. I wish I could,” he told the jury. “I’m a good person. I have good family values.”

The victim was absent from the courtroom during his statements.

Newmans wore his blue dress uniform throughout the trial at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans, which came amid heavy political pressure for the military services to address what President Barack Obama has called a “corrosive” problem of sexual assaults.

Rear Adm. Kevin S. Cook last year found “reasonable grounds” to try Newmans based on recommendations from the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. Newmans had remained at a barracks in New Orleans, on administrative reassignment.

Six of the eight jurors were required to convict Newmans, but the tally was unknown late Friday.

Such “general” courts-martial — the equivalent of a felony trial — are rare in the Coast Guard. For the year ending Sept. 30, just nine of the service’s personnel faced general courts-martial, those in which the defendant could face more than a year in the brig. Only one of the defendants won acquittal, according to an annual report to Congress.