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Alleged Rape by Marine Detailed

The 18-year-old woman testifies as the recruiter's court-martial begins. His military defender maintains the sex was consensual.

June 09, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A woman who claimed that she was raped by a veteran U.S. Marine Corps recruiter last year in the Riverside recruiting station described the incident Tuesday as the man's court-martial began.

"He grabbed me and pushed me against the table," said the 18-year-old from Corona. "I didn't know what to do. I froze. I made no movement, and I didn't react.... I wanted to say to him, 'Stop!' But words didn't come out."

The Marine, 33-year-old William Clayton Bragg of Murrieta, is subject to a life sentence in military prison and a dishonorable discharge if a panel of six male Marines deems him guilty of rape, indecent assault, indecent conduct, conduct to discredit the armed forces and adultery. Bragg, a 14-year Marine, is married.

In an opening statement, lead prosecutor Maj. Paul M. Schimpf said Bragg's actions "betrayed all 177,000 active-duty Marines who trusted [him] to act as our ambassador to the American public."

Schimpf said Bragg had called the woman to the recruiting station changing room, saying, "I want to show you the medals on my uniform."

"He closed the door, turned the lights off and suddenly all of his attention had, in the blink of an eye and flip of a switch, [gone] from something that was special to something that was dangerous and something terrifying."

The woman, who attends high school, alleges that Bragg raped her the evening of April 10, 2003. She went to Riverside police that night.

Bragg's attorney, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Klant, said his client had consensual sex with the woman.

"Her word should not be trusted," Klant told the panel. "Our theory is this: A young woman tells her friends intimate details only to later claim rape when someone told her boyfriend. Her specific character traits and background -- these things won't be pretty.

"It's not to engage in character assassination but to explain the facts," Klant said. "She is untruthful, aggressive and not accepting of authority."

Another minor girl who attended physical training classes under Bragg's supervision at the Marines' Riverside recruiting station later came forward to say that on April 3, 2003, Bragg rubbed her breasts and spoke to her in an inappropriate, sexually explicit manner.

Klant told the panel that the girl sought to bolster the alleged rape victim's claim, and that she took her complaints to police after the two women had talked.

Klant also told the panel that the woman alleging rape had engaged in flirting, handholding and kissing with Bragg in a car ride minutes before the incident in the recruiting station.

Klant is scheduled to cross-examine the woman today, and he told military Judge Robert S. Chester on Tuesday that he would call witnesses to support his argument that she is prone to fighting, doesn't respect authority and will "take whatever steps necessary to protect her own interest."

Bragg, Klant told the panel, has four Navy achievement decorations.

"Any sort of event like this is dependent upon who is saying this," Klant told the panel.

"Judge their actions, keep these characteristics in mind," he said.

Bragg's supervisor testified Tuesday that she had met both young women at the Riverside recruiting station and described them as "mentally, physically and morally qualified" to become Marines.

Another witness said Tuesday that Bragg confirmed in a June 2003 lie detector test that he had had sex with the alleged victim that night.

The accuser spoke softly as she told Schimpf that she was first attracted to the recruiting station by an ex-boyfriend who had signed up to be a Marine, and that she envisioned a life in the military.

On the stand, she recounted Bragg calling her home minutes before the incident and leaving a message for her mother, saying that the daughter "is with me, she's safe."

The young woman said Bragg then held her wrists and took off her clothes, breathing heavily with a tobacco smell, raped her and then drove her to a friend's house.

"Why did you get in his car?" Schimpf asked the woman.

"He was intimidating," she said. "There's no point in running away when someone has you outsized. I knew I couldn't get away. I didn't know what else he'd do."

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.

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