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Rape trial delayed: assault prevention course limits objective jurors

Dec. 9, 2012 at 5:10 PM   |   Comments

NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy sailor's rape trial was delayed because sexual assault prevention training may have affected potential jurors' objectivity, defense lawyers said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Wilt was accused of raping a female shipmate on April 26 on board the guided missile cruiser, Vella Gulf, as it was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday.

Wilt allegedly planned to lure the sailor, who is now also a petty officer 2nd class, to a room to sexually assault and kill her, said Cmdr. Michael Luken, executive officer of the Navy's Regional Legal Services Office.

The woman alleges Wilt beat her, threatened to kill and dismember her and throw her parts into the sea, and then raped and sodomized her.

"The fact is, and the evidence will show, two consenting individuals engaged in consensual, kinky sex in a room most commonly used for sex on the ship," said civilian defense attorney Ernesto Gapasin.

The case occurs as the Navy pushes to lessen sexual assaults in its ranks and is under scrutiny for the way it handles such cases.

The Navy earlier this year established a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response task force to train sailors on sexual assault prevention and accountability of sailors accused of such assaults, the newspaper reported.

The measure, however, has caused complications, the newspaper said. Last week, Wilt's court-martial was delayed for three days because defense counsel found it difficult to find suitable jurors from the defendant's command. The defense lawyers said they worried that since many potential jurors had recently had training in sexual-assault prevention, they may not be objective about this case.

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