John M. Neuhart II. Navy photo

Jury selection got underway Tuesday for the trial of a former Navy commander accused of sexually assaulting a colleague at her home in San Diego.

John Michael Neuhart II, 40, is charged with assault with intent to commit rape during a burglary and other counts. He faces life in prison if convicted.

More than 50 prospective jurors reported Tuesday morning to the courtroom of Judge Kathleen Lewis. Opening statements could be made as early as Wednesday.

The 30-year-old alleged victim testified during a preliminary hearing last January that she worked as a helicopter squadron flight instructor under Neuhart in Guam before being transferred to Coronado on Sept. 1, 2016.

The night of Sept. 11, 2016, the woman said she went to a concert with some friends and then met up with another friend at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego. She said her friend told her that Neuhart was in town with members of the squadron, and they went up to his room for drinks. The group later moved to the hotel bar, and she and Neuhart were there together, according to her testimony.

The woman testified that she has no memory of leaving the bar and next remembers pushing Neuhart out of her front door at 3 a.m.

“He had pulled my pants off,” she testified. “I told him to get the (expletive) out of my house.”

Once Neuhart was outside, the woman said she locked the front door, but then heard her side gate opening. Neuhart pounded on her back door and said, “I want you! I’ve always wanted you!,” she said.

She alleged that Neuhart told her to get a condom and put her pit bull away, then pulled the doors open and pushed her against her kitchen counter and the stove.

She said he forced her to the couch and told her to take his pants off, which she refused to do.

She said a neighbor yelled to her from outside, asking her if she was OK, and she said no and ran out the front door.

The neighbor called 911, and police tracked Neuhart down after he ran from the house, according to testimony.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong claimed the alleged victim flirted with Neuhart and the sexual encounter was consensual. A judge ruled that video of the encounter recorded on the defendant’s phone could be shown at the trial.

Neuhart, a married Iraq War veteran, was in San Diego for training at the time of the alleged crime, according to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tag. He was relieved as commander of the helicopter squadron after his arrest.

—City News Service

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