San Diego

Defendant Takes Stand in Ex-Navy Attempted Rape Trial

An ex-Navy commander accused of attempted rape took the witness stand to deny the charges Tuesday in a San Diego courtroom. 

John Michael Neuhart II is charged with attempted forcible rape, assault with intent to rape, hot prowl burglary and resisting arrest for events that took place in San Diego on Sept. 12, 2016 with his Navy colleague, identified in court proceedings as Kristen B.

Kristen B. testified that earlier that day she attended a country-western concert with colleagues, before meeting up with them and other friends, including Neuhart, that night at the lobby bar of the downtown Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Surveillance video of the lobby and elevators in the hotel was presented to jurors on Tuesday. The video shows Neuhart and Kristen kissing each other and standing outside the hotel. 

Neuhart testified that he brought up his wife to Kristen, and felt guilty that he was thinking about going home with Kristen because he was married. 

The two took a ride-share to Kristen's home in San Diego.

In the video shown in court, a woman can be heard crying for someone to stop and yelling at someone to get out of her house. Kristen repeatedly says "no" "stop" and "Is this what you want? A girl that doesn't want you?"

Neuhart told the jury he took the video on his cell phone because one accusation could end his career, and he wanted evidence to clear his name.

Neuhart testified that there was confusion over a safe word, believing "no meant go." He also said although she was saying stop, her body language didn't match what she was saying. 

A neighbor heard screams and ran to the front of the house to ask if the victim was okay. When she answered no, the neighbor called 911 and said through the window that the police were on the way.

The neighbor flagged down police when they arrived and pointed out Neuhart, who was running down the street and into a nearby canyon. 

San Diego police officer Bryan Shields was one of two officers that chased Neuhart, and testified on Tuesday about the incident. Audio from a body cam was also played. 

But Neuhart testified that he did not know it was the police chasing him, believing it to be a neighbor with a gun. He said as soon as he realized it was the police he dropped to the ground and complied with them.

Jurors were dismissed before the prosecution cross-examined Neuhart: that will take place Wednesday. 

The former commander was in the military for more than 15 years. Neuhart was the commanding officer of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, based at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. 

After the jurors left, the judge agreed to accept evidence in the case that Neuhart had visited multiple escort service websites. The prosecutor said there was evidence that Neuhart visited two escort websites the night of the incident in question.

He also texted upwards of 10 escorts in a period of two days in April 2016, the prosecutor said. She added he had made a throw-away Gmail account to reach out to prostitutes, that was deleted September 14, 2016, two days after the alleged crime happened. 

The judge said that Neuhart had presented a false aura to the jury by saying he was hesitating at the Hyatt because he felt wrong about cheating on his wife. The judge added that the evidence of the escort websites proved otherwise. 

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