Army Special Forces Col. Kevin Russell, who was on trial this week after being charged with five counts of sexual assault, was acquitted of all charges on Thursday afternoon.
According to his attorney Michael Waddington, Russell was “acquitted of all charges after about an hour and 15 minutes of deliberations.”
The Fayetteville Observer reports that the panel deliberating on the court-martial included eight men, seven colonels and one brigadier general.
During his court-martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it was revealed that a woman who was an Air Force captain at the time of the alleged assault had accused Russell of raping her, according to the Observer.
The woman was deployed in 2015 to Pakistan at the same time that Russell was deployed there. She told the court that she was friendly with Russell and another captain when the two men worked and lived together for a brief time during 2015.
In April 2015, the woman and Russell had their first sexual interaction, and a week later had consensual sex. In May, Russell left for a temporary assignment in Jordan, telling her that their relationship wasn't serious.
About two weeks after Russell left, the woman said she slept with the captain “who she considered a best friend,” the Observer reported. She said that she and Russell continued to talk while he was gone.
When he returned, the woman said that she “didn't have the courage to cut things off,” but that she wasn't interested in him anymore. She also wanted to hide her relationship with the captain.
But Russell found out about the relationship when he'd returned. The woman said in court that Russell said she and the captain “must think it's funny for the subordinate to get the boss' girl.”
Russell and the captain reportedly “agreed they'd both continue to pursue” the woman. Russell later asked the woman out to dinner and she agreed, which she said was because she didn't want to upset him.
On June 5, 2015, the two had dinner; later that night, according to the Observer, the woman went with Russell and the other captain to an establishment called the French Club with a group of friends. She said that Russell brought her two drinks that night while they were there and that she believes she was drugged.
She said she felt like she was “in a haze with a lapsed memory in patches,” the Observer reported.
She said she woke up “to Col. Russell having sex with me.”
The woman said she ran from the room on “second nature” and went to the captain's room where she passed out.
Russell pushed back on the woman's claims in his testimony, saying he didn't put anything in her drink and did not rape her.
He said that the woman didn't seem drunk on the night in question, according to the Observer, and that when he, the captain, and the woman returned home that night, they all went into separate bedrooms.
He said that he woke up to the woman coming into his room and getting into his bed and that she initiated the sex.
Russell said that he and the woman seemed to continue having a friendly relationship after the night of June 5; both he and the woman testified that they had sex on three different occasions after that night.
The woman said in court that she had “a lot of problems” after the alleged assault, according to the Observer. She said that she filed a restricted sexual assault report in January or February of 2016.
A restricted sexual report is one of two options available to military sexual assault survivors, which allows them to confidentially disclose the assault to specific individuals without setting off an official investigation.
A lieutenant colonel testified that she was told by the woman about the assault at some point after October 2015 and by 2016, the Observer reports. The woman made the report unrestricted — triggering an investigation — in April 2019.
Waddington, Russell's civilian attorney, told Task & Purpose on Thursday that he and an Army lawyer on Russell's defense team “fought like gladiators to expose the truth.”
“We had confidence that the seasoned jury, once they heard the evidence and the tremendous amount of lies told by the government’s star witnesses, they would acquit Col. Russell,” Waddington said. “In the end, justice was served.”