Jury to deliberate on day 5 of Coast Guardsman sexual assault trial
By Stacy Jacobsonsjacobson@abcnews4.com
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The jury began deliberations in Petty Officer Second Class Omar Gomez's court martial Friday evening. Gomez is charged with sexual assault as well as other associated mistreatment.
In closing arguments, the defense argued its client was coerced in to confessing by an expert Coast Guard investigator.
"The Coast Guard brought in their jedi, their master, Special Agent Brown to get the confession. That's his job," said Richard Morris, one of Gomez's attorneys.
During the interrogation of Gomez, you can hear him questioning his own memory. Eventually, he concluded he had sex with a faceless woman. But his foggy memory created doubt, the defense argued.
"He wears him down," Morris said. "Are we going to melt their minds until they just give in? That's not justice."
The defense also tried to paint its client as a scapegoat for an array of culture problems aboard the cutter Gallatin, stationed in Charleston.
"They all engaged in horseplay. It was mutual," Morris said.
But in the government's closing argument, Lt. Cdr. Mike Cintron called the accused a sexual predator. He pointed out witness testimony showed Gomez did not engage in just horseplay. He also fondled and groped women against their will.
Cintron asked the jury whether his alleged actions were worthy of a supervisor in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Prior to closing arguments, the defense also called its last two witnesses.
A seaman who served under Gomez, his supervisor, testified Gomez was a "good leader" with attention to detail. He also testified horseplay and joking of a sexual nature were common between male and female sailors during his time on the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin.
However, he said inappropriate touching, like that of which Gomez is accused, were not normal aboard the ship.
The defense also called a Coast Guard member, whom Petty Officer Gomez supervised as well. The member said he was present the night Gomez allegedly raped a civilian woman at a West Ashley apartment.
The man testified the accuser was drinking the night of the alleged rape. The accuser previously testified she took an over-the-counter sleep medication before going to sleep. He also said sexual joking aboard the Gallatin was "fairly common." That included men and women slapping each other's butts.
The defense also recalled a prior witness, Gomez's former chief aboard the Gallatin, Steven Dixon. Dixon said Thursday he is currently retired from the Coast Guard.
Dixon testified he spoke with Gomez soon after he was accused of rape. The chief said he had a counseling session with the petty officer, where he told Gomez he shouldn't have been at the party. Dixon also maintained he reported the incident to an executive officer.
"To my knowledge, nothing else was done," he said.
Dixon testified earlier in the trial that he didn't "know what the command master did with it." He said he never got a report back. Dixon received no formal reprimand regarding the incident, officials said.
No other parties have been charged in the case, officials said.
Authorities allege Gomez also took inappropriate photos of himself while aboard the ship. A woman testified Wednesday that he took her camera, put it down his pants and took photos of his genitals. She said she deleted them the next day.
The alleged incidents took place aboard Coast Guard Polar Star, based in Seattle, in 2006 and aboard the Gallatin in 2011 and 2012. Officials said the incidents occurred in Seattle, Charleston, Honduras, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
If convicted, Gomez faces possible military discharge and more than 30 years in prison, officials said.