Air Force Academy Cadet Benjamin Kuster’s court-martial trial on rape charges resumes today. His “jury” is comprised of an officer’s board with four men and one woman. The most significant testimony has come from the accuser.
[she] testified for four hours Monday morning, recounting the incidents of May 1 and 2, 2004, in Santa Rosa, N.M….[she] admittedthat she drank heavily, kissed another female cadet [named Kat, who happened to be Kuster’s fiance], and let other cadets drink liquor out of her navel during a field trip last May.
But, despite the heavy partying, the accuser insists she did not consent to sex with Cadet Kuster. She says she lay down on the floor and went to sleep, only to be awakened by someone whom she could tell was Kuster having sex with her. She testified she was confused at first, and then asked him, “What about Kat?” At that point, she said, Kuster ceased the sexual activity and left her alone. She acknowledged that she never told him to stop and never said “no.”
Kuster’s attorneys suggested the woman concocted the rape charge for fear of being punished and prevented from graduating. After the sexual assault scandal of 2003, academy policy was changed to grant amnesty to rape victims to encourage reporting of the crimes. Amnesty also erases a victim’s own offenses related to a rape, such as underage drinking.
Kuster is scheduled to graduate from the Academy on Wednesday. If convicted of the rape charge, he could be headed to prison instead. The maximum penalty is life in prison. He and Kat remain engaged. The accuser graduated last year and is now a second lieutenant.