Jury: Sailor not guilty in Peace Corps rape trial

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Associated Press

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 1:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 1 at 2:35 AM

NORFOLK, Virginia (AP) — A military jury found a Navy special warfare sailor not guilty late Wednesday of raping a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda multiple times after he refused to wear a condom.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Camaren Walker was accused of raping the woman in November 2010 in the East African nation while he was deployed as a construction worker in support of a small group of Navy SEALs. Military lawyers said he met the volunteer out at a bar one night while she was out with three other volunteers and that she willingly went back to his hotel room at the encouragement of her friends.

Prosecutors said the consensual encounter turned into rape when the condom he was wearing came off twice and she wanted him to stop.

"He didn't want to follow (the accuser's) one rule for consensual sex," Lt. Aaron Riggio, a Navy prosecutor said. "She was very clear what her rule was."

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The jury of five members, consisting of four men and one woman, found Walker not guilty of numerous charges that could have resulted in a life sentence. The jurors met for several hours late Wednesday after three days of testimony.

Riggio and Walker's defense attorney, Lt. Lauren Mayo, were not immediately available Wednesday evening for comment.

Riggio said Walker choked the woman when she told him she wanted to stop, then proceeded to have sex with her against her will three more times over the course of roughly six hours. On another occasion in the shower, the woman said she feared her trachea would be crushed and that she might drown. She said she didn't resist the next two times — including once when Walker's roommate was in the next bed — because she feared what might happen to her.

In closing arguments, Mayo repeatedly said the woman's story was unbelievable and that she simply regretted a one-night stand. Among other things, the woman taught school girls in rural Uganda to use condoms and not to succumb to peer pressure.

When the woman saw the friends she was out with the night before, they started chanting, 'Walk of shame.' The group had been in Uganda's capital for a Peace Corps conference and Mayo said that the woman was particularly concerned when a new volunteer saw her and that she worried what that person might think of her behavior.

The woman did not say she had been raped when she met with her friends the next day. That term didn't come up until the woman sought emergency contraception from a Peace Corps doctor. One of the women in the group later testified that she is no longer friends with the accuser and provided testimony disputing one of the charges against Walker, that he had exposed himself on the dance floor of a bar before he went with the woman to the dance club. He was also found not guilty of that charge, among others.

Mayo said the woman wanted to protect her reputation and her lifelong dream of working for the Peace Corps. The case shined a light on the safety concerns and procedures for Peace Corps volunteers, which Congress was so concerned with last year that it passed legislation requiring the agency to better train participants in how to avoid sexual assaults.

She told the five-member jury that the woman did not call a Peace Corps emergency hotline, even though there was a phone in the restroom that the woman walked into, but she forgot to lock the door. Mayo also cast doubt upon the details of the alleged rape reported to the person in charge of volunteers in the country.

Throughout closing arguments, Mayo repeatedly said the woman's story was unbelievable.

Among other things, Mayo noted that the woman sent her friends back to the hotel room to retrieve her earrings after the assaults were said to have occurred. Mayo also said the woman hugged Walker before leaving in the morning and that she slept in Walker's clothes instead of her own. The woman said she didn't try to leave the room because Uganda is such a dangerous country at night, but Mayo noted she stayed there for four hours after the sun rose.

The woman testified that she didn't scream, attempt to fight off Walker or ask his roommate, Chief Petty Officer William Witt, for help. The woman said she was worried Witt might try to rape her, too. She was unaware that the men were in the Navy. Walker does construction work for Virginia Beach-based SEALs and his record shows that he has won medals for good conduct and humanitarian service.

The roommate said he saw the woman get into Walker's bed after one of the alleged assaults. Witt was sleeping in the next bed at the time when one of the other alleged assaults happened, but he said he only heard kissing.

After seeing the woman after get out of the shower following the alleged second assault, "she still seemed happy," Witt said.

Witt said he was annoyed that Walker asked him to leave the room while he was talking with his wife on her birthday so he could be alone with the woman, but he had no idea that anything was amiss.

He said he didn't learn until the next day that Walker had choked the woman. He said Walker told him that when she said that she didn't like being choked, he stopped.

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Online: Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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