San Diego

Former Navy Commander Accused of Attempting to Rape Colleague

John M. Neuhart II was the commanding officer of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, based at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam

A former U.S. Navy official faces life in prison in a criminal case that involves an unusual piece of evidence - a videotaped recording of the alleged crime captured on the defendant's phone. 

A San Diego judge has ruled the jury will know about the video capturing the interactions between a former U.S. Navy Commander and his former colleague who has accused him of attempted rape.

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday for former Commander John M. Neuhart II, 39, now relieved of duty. He 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. 

Neuhart gave investigators the password for his Apple iPhone 6 after he had already obtained legal counsel, which violates Neuhart's sixth amendment rights, Armstrong had argued.

The defense said this case is the first time a judge has signed a warrant to make a suspect verbally give up his passcode to a phone.

The 41-minute video apparently captured at least some of the incident and is admissible.

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. 

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 San Diego Police Sex Crimes Lt. Paul 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 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 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. 

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