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He said, she said: sexual assault case spotlights differing views

The following narrative provides both a summary review of an ongoing sexual assault case with an Air Force Academy nexus and -- in a larger sense -- an overview of some of the predominant problems and issues that can feature in a sex-based criminal case.

The hearing process involving sexual assault allegations against an Air Force Academy cadet continues, with lawyers for both sides in attendance yesterday before an officer who must ultimately determine whether to commence a court-martial proceeding in the matter.

As is the case with many sexually based allegations, the hearing involving the cadet and his accuser -- a fellow cadet -- is centrally marked by a "she says, he says" tinge that has advocates on both sides making strong comments.

The prosecution argues unsurprisingly, for example, that there is clearly sufficient evidence to move forward to a court-martial proceeding in the case.

The defense, conversely, cites "obvious holes" in the case against the accused cadet, adding that, "The bottom line is there is no probable cause."

What reportedly renders the matter especially problematic is that the defendant strenuously asserts innocence, while the accuser declined the opportunity to testify in the hearing, which was held yesterday. Two witnesses noted at the hearing the alleged victim's agitation following an event that might or might not have occurred. One of them additionally stated, however, that the two cadets were in bed together and, as reported in a news story on the matter, "seemed to be having a good time."

The evidence before the officer who must issue a recommendation in the matter is thus both sparse and conflicting.

Sexual assault cases are often singular for the flatly contradictory views that are expressed and the difficulties that can attach to interpretations regarding consent. Strong military counsel is often an imperative in such cases -- both for alleged victims and for those accused of criminal behavior.

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