A San Diego judge has reversed an earlier decision to allow what could be a crucial piece of evidence - video that captured a former U.S. Navy Commander allegedly attempting to rape a colleague - to be seen during the commander's trial.
Former Commander John M. Neuhart II, 39, now relieved of duty, is facing attempted forced rape, assault with intent to rape, hot prowl burglary and resisting arrest charges. His well-known attorney Kerry Armstrong previously entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Neuhart is out on bail.
At a motions hearing Tuesday, attorneys on both sides presented arguments over whether the video could be entered as evidence and seen by a jury during the trial.
The debate centered around the fact that Neuhart gave officers the password for his Apple iPhone 6 after he had already obtained legal counsel, which violates Neuhart's sixth amendment rights, Defense attorney Armstrong argued.
"That's a huge legal issue because they brought my client onto the base, which we thought was improper," Armstrong said. "They could have come to my office, they could have come to my client's house but they made him go on base which i tried to get on base that day but the military would not let me on."
Armstrong went on to argue that he wanted the video thrown out because a San Diego Police detective did not let him review the warrant before asking his client for the passcode.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled that the video, which had been recording for 41 minutes and apparently captured at least some of the incident, is admissible.
"This is the first time in California this has ever been done, where a judge signed a warrant to make someone verbally give up his passcode," Armstrong said.
The incident took place Sept. 12 when San Diego police responded to a call of a sexual assault occurring in the city's Valencia Park neighborhood, SDPD Sex Crimes Lt. Paul Phillips said.
Neuhart and the victim, both members of the Navy, met at a hotel downtown when the victim, with a group of friends, recognized Neuhart, according to Phillips. The group talked for a while until the victim left the bar to go home, with Neuhart going as well.
Neuhart allegedly followed the victim into her house, at which point he allegedly attempted to rape her.
"The suspect immediately became forceful with her and attempted to sexually assault her," Phillips said.
The victim testified at a preliminary hearing that Neuhart took off her pants without consent.
She testified that she pushed him out of her home, but prosecutors say Neuhart returned through the french doors on her back balcony.
Neuhart told her to get a condom, then threw her against the stove and kitchen counter, the victim testified. She said her pit bull, Jax, bit Neuhart, in an attempt to protect her from the assault.
As the victim fought off the suspect, she screamed loudly, Phillips said. A neighbor heard the 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.
Neuhart apparently heard the remark, Phillips said, and escaped through the back door.
The neighbor flagged down police when they arrived and pointed out Neuhart, who was running down the street and into a nearby canyon.
Officers apprehended Neuhart in the canyon and took him into custody.
In court, defense attorney Armstrong claims the victim flirted and kissed the defendant and the contact was consensual after a night out drinking.
The former commander is married and worked 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 on Guam.
If convicted, Neuhart could face life in prison.