Miami-Dade County

Coast Guard court martial alleging sexual assault underway in Miami

A Coast Guard judge Friday empaneled a seven-member jury to hear a South Carolina rape case in Miami that alleges a male petty officer sexually assaulted a female Air Force staff sergeant in 2010.

A lieutenant commander was excused from the jury after disclosing that she was a victim of sexual assault as a freshman at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in the mid-1990s.

“I’ve dealt with that issue; it was a long time ago,” said the officer, arguing she could serve impartially on the sexual assault trial of Petty Officer Sheldon Bond, 33. “I’ve gone through counseling,” she said, adding that the episode “doesn’t affect my life currently.”

Bond, whose hometown is listed as Anchorage, according to the Coast Guard, is currently assigned to Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach County. The charge sheet alleges that Bond, a machinery technician, raped, groped and otherwise assaulted the Air Force sergeant in Lexington, S.C., in October 2010.

The trial is being held at the Coast Guard’s 7th District Headquarters in downtown Miami because South Carolina is part of the 7th District and at a time of increased scrutiny on how the military justice system handles sexual assault cases.

If convicted, Bond could be sentenced to a maximum term of life in prison.

Part of the alleged activity accuses Bond of “groping” the victim in a bar, his defense attorney, Navy Lt. Matt Kozyra said during Friday’s hearing, noting that “the defense is consent.”

Kozyra made his remarks as part of a pretrial hearing, in which it was disclosed that attorneys for both sides were trying to subpoena Facebook messages between the accused and the alleged victim as well as Sprint network text messages between them that continued for three months after the alleged rape.

The panel of three officers and four senior enlisted Coast Guardsmen was chosen from a pool of 12 candidates assigned to the case by Rear Adm. Jake Korn, commander of the Coast Guard district.

Six of them are men; the lone woman on the jury is an officer. Opening arguments begin Monday. Coast Guard Capt. Christine Cutter is presiding.

Another prospective juror excused by the judge was a master chief who just this week completed a course to become a victim’s advocate in a training program that taught him to treat every claim of a sexual assault as true.

Separately, Bond is accused of adultery — a violation of the military code that governs the Coast Guard — for having sex with the alleged victim while being married to someone else.

A Coast Guard announcement of the proceedings said the alleged victim, whose name is being shielded from public release, has left the Air Force and is now a civilian. The statement said that the Coast Guard got the case in March 2013, 2 1/2 years after the alleged crime occurred, “after the Air Force Office of Special Investigation notified the Coast Guard of the allegations.”