Navy commander charged with attempted rape

SAN DIEGO -- A U.S. Navy commander accused of trying to rape a colleague at her Valencia Park home pleaded not guilty Monday to four charges, including felony assault with intent to commit rape and attempted forcible rape.

John Michael Neuhart II, 39, who remains free on $100,000 bail, faces seven years and four months in state prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tag.

John Michael Neuhart II

John Michael Neuhart II

The defendant -- who for unexplained reasons appeared in court on crutches -- is also charged with "hot prowl'' burglary.

"These cases are scary,'' Tag said. "Obviously any type of sex assault that has a burglary allegation or a burglary charged, is absolutely something that would be terrifying to any victim, woman or man.''

Neuhart, head of the Guam-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, was arrested following a brief foot chase after 3 a.m. last Monday.

Patrol officers responded to a report of an assault in progress and arrived to find a man running away from the alleged victim's home and into a nearby canyon, according to San Diego police.

The neighbor who reported the alleged assault told investigators he'd hurried over to the woman's home after hearing screams and asked her through a window if she was all right, said SDPD Lt. Paul Phillips.

When she shouted "no,'' the man made a 911 call and yelled into the home that he was doing so, according to the lieutenant.

The alleged victim, who is in her late 20s, told detectives she had gotten together with the suspect, a prior acquaintance, the previous evening following a chance meeting at a downtown hotel. She said they spent some time socializing there with others before going home with Neuhart.

"When they got to the residence, the suspect entered the house with the victim,'' the lieutenant said. "The suspect immediately became forceful with her and attempted to sexually assault her. She was able to fight him off and ... began screaming very loudly.''

Neuhart, a married Iraq War veteran who trained with a Coronado-based helicopter antisubmarine squadron in 2002, was in San Diego for training at the time of the alleged crime, Tag said.

Authorities did not release the woman's name or military rank.

A readiness conference was set for Oct. 19 and a preliminary hearing for Dec. 8.