Coast Guard Petty Officer Sheldon Bond wept after hearing the verdict in his military trial late Wednesday: Acquitted of wrongful sexual contact or sexual assault.
Bond, 33, was found guilty of adultery. Having sex with someone other than your spouse is a military crime, and he was married at the time.
Bond had shown little emotion during the four-day court martial at the Coast Guard’s 7th 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 3 1/2 hours to reach a verdict.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
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 a group was spending the night, she alleged, Bond sneaked into her room, pinned her down and raped her.
While Bond admits the pair had sex, 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 on the night in question.
On Wednesday afternoon, the defense and prosecution made 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 told the jury the woman’s story was ridiculous, saying she didn’t cry out for help and that she stayed in contact with Bond in the days following their encounter.
As Kozyra spoke, the woman became visibly exasperated and whispered to her victim advocate. She laughed aloud when Kozyra suggested she might have a personality disorder.
Dr. Lester Huff, an Air Force psychiatrist who has seen about 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 has never examined the former staff sergeant.
Huff said he was 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.
The prosecutor, Coast Guard Lt. Frances Johnson-Gillion, told the jury 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 is scheduled Thursday.