Navy petty officer found 'not guilty' in Mayport rape trial

UPDATE: A not guilty verdict tonight in a rape court-martial at Mayport Naval Station. Petty Officer Alpha Omega Dowell appeared elated. He hugged his family and they in turn hugged his lawyers after the verdict was read.

Dowlen was acquitted of two charges of rape and one count of indecent exposure from an incident in September 2012. The seven-member panel deliberated just over 3 1/2 hours after hearing two days of testimony.

For her part, the complaining victim appeared devastated by the verdict.

Christine Sapp, whom FCN is identifying because she is spoken publicly about the case, began sobbing and had to be helped from the court room by her friends and family.

Neither she nor Dowlen would comment on the verdict.

Story from earlier Thursday:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "Victim blaming 101" is how Lt. Judge Advocate Andrew Hofland characterized the defense arguments in the rape trial of Naval petty officer Alpha Omega Dowlen.

Dowlen is on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting seaman Christine Sapp in September 2012. If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

Related: Military rape trial begins at Mayport Naval Station

In his closing argument in defense of Dowlen, Lt. Brian Henning said Sapp's allegations were "Simply not believable. Does it sounds more like forcible rape to you or does it sound more to you like a consensual act?"

Henny pointed to Sapp's decision to invite Dowlen over to watch football and her failure to eject him from her home after he allegedly exposed himself to her as proof of "ambiguity" about her behavior. He also raised the fact that Sapp testified she had an orgasm to argue that a consensual version of events "makes more sense."

Hofland countered that a physiological response does not override what he called "the picture of non consent."

Hofland countered that "no means no" and replayed a portion of a phone call between the alleged victim and defendant in which Dowlen says, quote, "you said no, but you didn't really like fight me, you know."

"No means no," Hofland told the court members. "We are all on notice."

The case comes at a time when the military is trying to turn around its image on sexual assaults. A Pentagon survey estimated some 26,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted in 2012.

The case now goes to the seven member empaneled officers that comprise the court martial to deliberate guilt or innocence.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment