Florida Keys

At court-martial, Key West Coast Guardsman denies sexually abusing colleague

U.S. Coast Guardsman Edwin R. Angulo's face was emotionless for much of the opening of his court-martial, a military version of a civilian trial, at Coast Guard Sector Key West.

In full uniform, Petty Officer 3rd Class Angulo, 26, pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault, officially called specifications of sexual assault, in violation of Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If convicted, he can be sentenced to 60 years in prison (30 years each charge), dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of military pay.

He is accused of assaulting a 19-year-old female Coast Guard seaman at his off-base apartment twice in 2013. Angulo was assigned to the Key West-based cutter Thetis at the time.

According to a partially redacted charging sheet provided by the Coast Guard, Angulo is accused of sexually assaulting the woman, who was incapable of consent “due to impairment by an intoxicant,” on or about Nov. 15, 2013, and on or about Dec. 15, 2013.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathaniel Gross, who represents Angulo along with Lt. Tracy Waller, told the KeysInfoNet that Angulo “vehemently denies” the allegations. The U.S. government, represented by Coast Guard Lt. Jeremy Weiss and Lt. Bianca Barcelo, declined to comment.

At Tuesday’s opening, Coast Guard Capt. Christine Cutter, the judge, and the prosecution and defense debated which questions to ask potential jurors, comprising officers and enlisted members, when juror selection takes place Wednesday. When that’s complete, the two sides will make their opening arguments and then try to make their cases.

On Nov. 14, 2014, Vice Adm. William Lee, commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area, referred Angulo's case to court-martial following an Oct. 16 hearing. The charges followed a three-month investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which completed its investigation in June 2014.

Courts-martial are rare in the Keys.

Key West Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael G. Gold, 40, was found guilty of assault consummated by battery and drunk and disorderly conduct and sentenced to 30 days restriction and 30 days hard labor without confinement back on Oct. 10, 2014, for violating Articles 128 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Naval Air Station Key West spokeswoman Trice Denny said the most recent Navy courts-martial in Key West were set for 2013 but moved to Jacksonville.

One involved an NAS sailor accused of falsifying statements, assault, adultery and defying orders to remain on base.

The other involved a member of the Navy Munitions Command, a detachment housed at the naval station. That sailor was charged with three counts of disobeying orders for basically not showing up for work, Denny said.

“He was a pretty bad serial leaver,” she said.

According to Denny, there are several reasons a court-martial can be moved to another jurisdiction, including whether most of the witnesses are from another area.

Angulo’s court-martial could last until Friday, Coast Guard Miami spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said. If convicted, Angulo would be sentenced immediately.