A Navy lieutenant testified Friday that she didn’t call police when her former commanding officer tried to rape her in her San Diego home last year because she didn’t want to get him in trouble with his superiors.
The woman said Cmdr. John Michael Neuhart sexually assaulted her after they spent some time drinking and hanging out with colleagues downtown the night of Sept. 11, 2016.
The alleged victim testified that the 40-year-old Neuhart took her pants and underwear off and was physically violent with her inside her Valencia Park home about 3 a.m. the next morning.
The woman said she doesn’t remember a lot of what happened that evening but does remember trying to get Neuhart to leave once he showed up at her home.
“I didn’t want to get Commander Neuhart in trouble,” the woman testified.
She said she decided to press charges after calling a colleague.
The alleged victim told defense attorney Kerry Armstrong that she didn’t think her military career would be damaged by the encounter.
“I didn’t think I had done anything wrong,” the alleged victim testified during her third day on the witness stand in Neuhart’s trial. The defendant faces up to life in prison if convicted of assault with intent to commit rape and other charges.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tag told the jury in her opening statement that Neuhart was the commander of a helicopter squadron in Guam when the alleged victim was stationed there as a flight instructor.
Both she and the defendant were in San Diego for separate training sessions last year, the prosecutor said.
After having drinks at a downtown hotel, Neuhart and the woman ended up at her home, where he forced himself on her, Tag alleged.
In a cell phone video recorded by the defendant, the woman can be heard telling Neuhart to “stop” as he tries to get her to open the door about 3 a.m.
“I’ve wanted you for a while,” Neuhart tells her. When she tells him “no” and to stop, Neuhart says, “Is that your safe word? Is no your safe word?”
The woman is heard telling Neuhart that he is going to get attacked by her pit bull if he doesn’t leave.
“Stop. It’s not what I want!” the woman tells the defendant. “Please stop! Is this what you want, a girl who doesn’t want you?”
She testified that she told the defendant, “You’re (expletive) done!” during the encounter, referring to his military career.
Neuhart took off running after a neighbor called 911. The defendant was arrested by police a short distance away and suffered a broken leg.
Defense attorney Brian White told the jury that the encounter was between two consenting adults who had too much to drink and engaged in “aggressive and bizarre” foreplay.
The attorney said Neuhart didn’t have the intent to have sex with the alleged victim against her will.
White said Neuhart and the woman were touching and kissing each other earlier in the evening. The attorney said Neuhart said the woman told him, “When I say stop, don’t stop.”
White told the jury that the alleged victim was in a “blackout state” – – which can cause a person to act irrationally — after a night of drinking.
White said Neuhart set up his cell phone outside the alleged victim’s door so he would have evidence in case she claimed rape.
Neuhart, a married Iraq War veteran, was relieved as commander of the helicopter squadron after his arrest. He is still in the Navy, his attorney said.
—City News Service