Judges overturn West Point cadet's rape conviction, say they can't prove it was not consensual

news
Sexual Assault

Three U.S. military judges overturned a West Point cadet's 2017 rape conviction on Monday, saying that it didn't seem plausible that it could have happened without both parties' consent.


According to the court's written decision, and first reported by Military Times, the judges threw out the conviction of cadet Jacob Whisenhunt's and his previous sentence of 21 years behind bars. He was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow cadet while she slept during a summer field training event in 2016.

He was found guilty by "a panel of West Point faculty and staff," the Associated Press reported, and along with his prison sentence, was dismissed from the Army.

Whisenhunt was accused of digitally penetrating the woman, and then raping her. Per the court documents, his "semen was found" inside her sleeping bag.

The woman said at the time that she "woke up to [Whisenhunt] penetrating her with his finger and then with his penis," and that she "remained frozen in the fetal position during the entire assault."

Whisenhunt's defense said that the sex was consensual, and his actions that night "were precipitated by a series of escalating and consensual touching."

"[T]o be convinced of [Whisenhunt's] guilt, we would have to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the sexual acts could plausibly occur (and would not be discovered) without active cooperation from both parties," the judges wrote. "[I]n the unique circumstances here ... it is hard to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that [Whisenhunt] could complete the charged offenses without cooperation or detection."

The judges went on to say that it's hard to believe that Whisenhunt wouldn't have anticipated the woman making "any reflexive noise or movements," and that there was "no evidence" he threatened her, tried to cover her mouth, or further prevent her from crying out. It also says that there isn't evidence he tried to hide his appearance or coerce her, meaning the woman would be able to identify him if she were to press charges later, and that there were no signs that he tried to remove evidence of his semen from her sleeping bag.

Essentially, the judges argued that it was unlikely he raped her because it would have made too much noise, and because he didn't take actively take steps to cover it up.

The judges also said that "taking into consideration that the panel saw and heard the witnesses and we did not, we nevertheless conclude that the appellant's convictions are factually insufficient."

All charges, and Whisenhunt's sentence, were dropped. As Military Times pointed out, he's now able "to be fully reinstated at West Point, or request his dis-enrollment." And because he was charged before he had completed two years, he's not responsible for paying back his education, nor is he beholden to any military service.

West Point Academy spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt told Military Times: "West Point is aware of the appellate court's ruling and will take appropriate action."

Sexual assault at military academies is a longstanding issue — the Pentagon reported this year that it has risen by almost 50% in two years — and sexual assault in the broader military population has reached a four-year high. Upon the release of the military's sexual assault report, deputy director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Nate Galbreath, disagreed with the assumption that what the military is doing isn't working.

"We know that what we do works with people," he said.

SEE ALSO: A viral Army tweet paints a harrowing picture of the sacrifices made in military service

WATCH NEXT: The Women Veterans Battling PTSD

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday of possible Israeli involvement in attacks against Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.

A series of blasts in the past few weeks have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Israel's regional foe Iran. The groups blamed the United States and Israel for the blasts on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
White House/Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will make it easier for permanently disabled veterans to have their student loan debt forgiven.

Read More Show Less
Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Physical fitness tests were briefly suspended earlier this week and outdoor cardio testing will be curtailed for the remainder of the summer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after an airman died Saturday. She had completed her PT test on Friday.

Read More Show Less
(DoD photo)

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has expanded a review of the Judge Advocate General Corps to include the Marine Corps, a Navy spokesman said on Thursday.

"There is value in applying this review and its subsequent recommendations across the Department of the Navy," Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey told Task & Purpose. "The review's purpose is to confirm the uniformed legal community is structurally and organizationally sound and best supporting the good order and discipline our integrated naval force."

Read More Show Less

Marine veteran, professional mumbler, temper-tantrum prone Sith Lord, and A-list actor, Adam Driver, is taking on the CIA in a new teaser trailer for the feature-length political thriller The Report.

Read More Show Less