Woman wanted to keep quiet after alleged sex assault by Coast Guardsman, she testifies in court-martial
The woman wept as she recounted seeing a picture of herself as a 6-year-old with her father.
The photograph had popped up on her phone the day she said a Coast Guardsman raped her next to her sleeping boyfriend at a West Ashley apartment in February 2012.
In testimony Tuesday during Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Gomez’s court-martial, the woman said she decided when she got that call from her father that she wouldn’t report the encounter.
The woman, 21, cried as she told a jury of seven officers that not calling the police was her way of protecting her family.
“I didn’t want (my father) to feel he failed in any way,” the woman, who will remain nameless because The Post and Courier does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault or their loved ones.
Seven months would pass before another woman stepped forward and told her story, prompting an investigation that military prosecutors say paints Gomez as a sexual predator. He’s accused of violating five military laws and of sexual misconduct against eight women. If convicted, possible punishments could range from a letter of reprimand to heavy prison time.
Lt. Bryan Tiley, a Coast Guard prosecutor, hinted at his case during an opening statement Tuesday.
The activity started soon after Gomez left boot camp, Tiley said, when he touched or made sexually charged comments about female service members. It continued during his time as a supervisor at sea. In some cases, he used his rank to make women submit to his desires, Tiley said.
But Tiley’s first witness, the woman who didn’t report her experience, was a 19-year-old civilian from North Carolina who dated a Coast Guard member in Charleston. She often visited him at his West Ashley apartment.
Testifying in front of judge Capt. Christine Cutter, the woman said she had gone with her boyfriend and his friends to a concert by county music singer Miranda Lambert on Feb. 24, 2012.
When the group returned, the woman testified, she and her boyfriend gulped some ZzzQuil and went to bed. Other residents of the apartment and their guests, including a man she didn’t know, stayed up, listened to music and drank alcohol.
She later awoke to a man pinning her down and having sex with her, she said. She could make out only a silhouette of the man’s light bulb-shaped head.
She felt paralyzed. She said she couldn’t muster the strength to reach her boyfriend, who was sleeping beside her, or to let out more than muffled cries for help.
The man soon left.
Retreating to the bathroom, she stood under hot water that turned cold, then hot again, then cold again. She emptied a bottle of body wash.
“I was terrified,” she said. “Anywhere I felt he touched or breathed on, I just wanted to clean.”
She told her boyfriend what happened when he awoke later that morning. He grew angry and showed her Facebook photos of people who had attended the party. She identified Gomez as her assailant, the woman said, but she didn’t want to call the police.
Her boyfriend had known Gomez from his time working on a Coast Guard boat.
“I want you to promise never to talk about this again,” she said, according to her boyfriend’s testimony.
But the civilian attorney for Gomez, Richard Morris of Virginia Beach, pointed out inconsistencies in the former couple’s accounts.
The now ex-boyfriend recalled telling a grand jury earlier this year that the woman had two cups of beer that night. She denied drinking any alcohol.
He also said her girlfriend had named Gomez as her assailant before she looked at any Facebook pictures.
Morris’ questions echoed his opening statement earlier in the court-martial’s second day. The sexual encounters were consensual and sometimes reciprocal, Morris argued.
He also faulted testimony from his client’s friend, Coast Guard member Francisco Rubio, who had said during grand jury testimony that he never attended the party.
But on Tuesday, Rubio said he drank Bud Light and played beer pong at the apartment. He and Gomez got drunk, so they crashed in the living room.
Gomez woke him around 3 a.m. and told him that they had to leave, Rubio said. Gomez then went into a room and returned five or 10 minutes later, he said.
When investigators first asked him in September 2012 about what he was doing during that time, Gomez denied having sex with the woman, Special Agent Douglas Patterson of the Coast Guard Investigative Service testified.
But during a follow-up interview the next day, Patterson said, Gomez acknowledged having sex with a “faceless female that was not his wife.”