San Diego

3rd Trial, Fewer Charges for Ex-Navy Cmdr Accused of Attempted Rape

A former U.S. Navy commander accused of attempting to rape a colleague in her home will face charges for a third time after juries in two previous trials failed to reach a verdict, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Defense attorneys for ex-Commander John M. Neuhart II filed a motion to dismiss the five criminal charges against him in connection with an incident at a junior female officer’s Valencia Park home on Sept. 12, 2016.

While Judge Laura Halgren ruled Wednesday to dismiss several of the charges -- including the most serious charge, intent to commit rape during a burglary, which could have resulted in life behind bars -- a third trial with assault with intent to rape and attempted rape charges will move forward.

“Obviously I am very happy that the life count got dismissed, so Mr. Neuhart is no longer looking at life, which is an amazing thing,” Defense Attorney Kerry Armstrong said. “Obviously I am not so happy because he is still facing a third trial.”

With these less severe charges, Neuhart now faces less than 10 years behind bars if convicted, but he would still have to register for life as a sex offender.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tag said she was disappointed in the results but still feels Neuhart can be convicted on the remaining charges.

“Out of 24 jurors, 21 voted to convict him,” Tag said. “When a vote’s 21-3 it’s kind of difficult to hear that some of the counts were dismissed, but I still think that with the remaining charges he can, and will, be held accountable for his conduct.

A jury has deadlocked twice on all charges against Neuhart. His first trial in December 2017 ended with the jury hung 11-1 for conviction on the alleged sex crimes. A second trial this April -- with a new jury and a different judge -- was unable to reach a unanimous decision on three major counts and a mistrial was declared.

Neuhart has said on the stand that on Sept. 16, 2016, he was trying to get the woman, identified during court proceedings as "Kristin B.," to agree to sex even though she was so drunk she fell off a bar stool, could not walk straight and was slurring her words.

During the trials, two pieces of key evidence were presented to jurors -- a hotel surveillance video and a cell phone video that the defendant recorded at the alleged victim’s home.

Armstrong said the Manchester Grand Hyatt surveillance video showed that Kristin and Neuhart were "…kissing, hugging and carrying on like a couple" in the hours before they went to the alleged victim’s home.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Kristin B. had been drinking with Neuhart earlier at the hotel’s rooftop bar at the downtown. But the prosecutor reminded jurors that, "There’s no consent if someone’s drunk. There’s no consent if someone’s saying no."

The prosecutor said Neuhart videotaped the encounter because he wanted a record of what he thought would be a sexual conquest. The defense argued he shot the video because he wanted proof that any sexual activity was consensual.

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