Jury: Sailor not guilty in Peace Corps rape trial

Mar 1, 2012, 8:23 AM

Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – In a rape case that focused on whether to believe a construction worker who works with Navy SEALs or a woman who taught children in Uganda about safe sex, a military jury has decided that the former Peace Corps volunteer’s story of being sexually assaulted multiple times wasn’t enough to convict the sailor.

After three days of testimony, 27-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Camaren Walker was found not guilty of all charges against him. The case focused on whether a sailor who had won medals for good conduct and humanitarian service forced the woman to have sex in his hotel room in the East African nation’s capital after the condom he was wearing came off twice.

The woman testified that she wanted Walker to stop, but that the first of four assaults occurred when he began choking her when she objected to unprotected sex. She described the early morning hours in his Uganda hotel room as a night of hell where she feared for her life.

“He didn’t want to follow (the accuser’s) one rule for consensual sex,” Lt. Aaron Riggio, a Navy prosecutor said. “She was very clear what her rule was.”

The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Walker’s attorneys said the woman simply regretted her decision to have a one-night stand because she was embarrassed and wanted to protect her reputation and her lifelong dream of working for the Peace Corps. The woman’s testimony was the heart of the case, with Riggio saying that if they didn’t believe her that Walker should be found not guilty. A guilty verdict carried the potential of a life sentence.

The case highlighted safety concerns for Peace Corps workers, with defense attorneys noting that the 27-year-old woman, who now lives in Washington, never called an emergency hotline for Peace Corps workers. The woman said she never tried to flee the room in the early morning hours on Nov. 6, 2010, because Uganda was such a dangerous country, particularly for young foreign women. Prosecutors noted the hotel where Walker _ who was there with the SEALs and other special warfare support staff _ was staying at had metal detectors, a security fence and entry gates where staff used mirrors to inspect cars for explosives.

Still, defense attorneys noted during the final day of testimony Wednesday that even with all that security the woman never requested help when she eventually left. During closing arguments at Naval Station Norfolk, Lt. Lauren Mayo repeatedly said the woman’s story was unbelievable. She noted there was no evidence of physical assault, despite the woman’s assertion that she feared her trachea would be crushed.

When the woman saw the friends she was out with the night before, they started chanting “Walk of shame.” The group had been in Uganda’s capital for a Peace Corps conference and Mayo said the woman was particularly concerned when a new volunteer saw her and that she worried what that person might think of her behavior.

The woman did not say she had been raped when she met with her friends the next day. That term didn’t come up until the woman sought emergency contraception from a Peace Corps doctor. One of the women in the group later testified that she is no longer friends with the accuser and provided testimony disputing one of the charges against Walker, that he had exposed himself on the dance floor of a bar while he was with them. He was also found not guilty of that charge, among others.

Mayo also noted the woman sent her friends back to the hotel room to retrieve her earrings after the assaults were said to have happened. Mayo said the woman hugged Walker before leaving in the morning and that she slept in Walker’s clothes instead of her own. The woman said she didn’t try to leave the room because Uganda is dangerous at night, but Mayo noted she stayed there for four hours after the sun rose.

The woman testified that she didn’t scream, attempt to fight off Walker or ask his roommate, Chief Petty Officer William Witt, for help. The woman said she was worried Witt might try to rape her, too. She was unaware that the men were in the Navy. Walker does construction work for Virginia Beach, Va.-based SEALs and his record shows he has won medals for good conduct and humanitarian service.

The roommate said he saw the woman get into Walker’s bed after one of the alleged assaults. Witt was sleeping in the next bed at the time when one of the other alleged assaults happened, but he said he only heard kissing.

After seeing the woman get out of the shower following the alleged second assault, “she still seemed happy,” Witt said.

Witt said he was annoyed that Walker asked him to leave the room while he was talking with his wife on her birthday so he could be alone with the woman, but he had no idea that anything was amiss.

He said he didn’t learn until the next day that Walker had choked the woman. He said Walker told him that when she said that she didn’t like being choked, he stopped.

___

Brock Vergakis can be reached at
www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Jury: Sailor not guilty in Peace Corps rape trial