Lawyers Seek To Reverse Conviction Against Former Coast Guard Cadet

Wednesday, November 28th 2007, 8:39 am
By: News On 6

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - Lawyers for a former cadet who was the first student court-martialed in the 130-year history of the Coast Guard Academy's are seeking to reverse his convictions for sexual misconduct.

Webster Smith, of Houston, was acquitted last year of rape but was convicted of extortion, sodomy and indecent assault in a case involving four female cadets. He served all but one month of a six-month prison sentence and was released early for good behavior.

A legal brief filed by his lawyers claims the convictions should be thrown out because the defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine one of his accusers during Smith's court martial. They say that meant the jury didn't hear testimony that the accuser, a female cadet, had once had consensual sex with a Coast Guard enlisted man and then called it sexual assault.

``The excluded cross-examination would have devastated (the accuser's) credibility, on which the government's case depended completely, making it all but certain that the outcome in this pure credibility contest would have been different,'' according to the brief.

The U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to hear oral arguments from both sides January 16th in Arlington, Va.

The convictions on the three charges were based on the testimony of the female cadet, who said Smith coerced her by threatening to reveal a secret she had confided in him about the past relationship.

Lt. Cmdr. Patrick M. Flynn, the government's lawyer for the appeal, said Tuesday that the jury ``heard enough'' and the trial judge was within his rights to impose reasonable limits on the cross-examination.

``They didn't need to hear the additional details the defense is arguing they should have been allowed to hear,'' Flynn said.

The defense also is asking the court to set aside Smith's convictions on two lesser charges of failing to obey an order and abandoning watch.