MIAMI — Coast Guard Petty Officer Sheldon Bond openly wept after hearing the verdict in his military trial late Wednesday: not guilty of wrongful sexual contact or sexual assault.
Bond was found not guilty of every charge but adultery – having sex with someone other than your spouse is a military crime.
Bond showed little emotion during the four-day court martial held at 8th District Headquarters in downtown Miami. But on Wednesday, he embraced his family and sobbed after the seven-member jury shared their findings with the court. The former Air Force staff sergeant who accused him of rape remained expressionless.
It took the jury three-and-a-half hours to reach a verdict.
Earlier this week, the woman took the stand and sobbed as she spoke to the jury.
He touched her inappropriately at a crowded bar in Lexington, S.C., right before Halloween 2010, she said. After returning to the house where the group was spending the night, she alleges Bond sneaked into her room, pinned her down and raped her.
While Bond admits the pair had sexual intercourse, he told investigators it was consensual. He did not testify during the court martial.
The verdict followed three days of testimony, much of it coming from witnesses who attested to Bond’s character and friends who were with Bond and his accuser the night of the alleged assault.
On Wednesday afternoon, the defense and prosecution shared closing arguments and gave the jury several pieces of evidence to review during deliberation, including medical reports, character statements and phone records.
Defense attorney Navy Lt. Matthew Kozyra closed his arguments by calling the woman’s story ridiculous, saying the woman didn’t cry out for help during the alleged assault and stayed in contact with Bond in the days following the alleged assault.
As Kozyra spoke, the woman became visibly exasperated, whispering to her victim advocate when she disagreed with something the lawyer said. She openly laughed when Kozyra suggested she might have a personality disorder.
Dr. Lester Huff, an Air Force psychiatrist who has seen roughly 2,500 patients, was one of the defense’s key witnesses. He told the jury that he thinks there’s a strong chance the woman has narcissistic personality disorder.
At one point during Wednesday’s cross-examination, the prosecution challenged Huff’s assertion, asking how he could be certain when he had never examined the former staff sergeant.
Huff said he is confident after examining the accuser’s journal, medical records and interviewing her friends. He also referenced statements she made throughout the trial.
“If you gave me an EKG and lab findings and a history of someone, I’d probably be able to say that person has heart disease,” he said.
Prosecutor Coast Guard Lt. Frances Johnson-Gillion told the jury during closing arguments that sexual assault victims handle trauma in different ways.
“The accused is not allowed to dictate how a victim who is being raped should respond,” she said.
Sentencing for the adultery charge begins Thursday.