New trial ordered for Navy commander accused of attempted rape
SAN DIEGO – A judge Wednesday refused to dismiss the case against a former Navy commander accused of trying to rape a junior officer in her San Diego home last year and scheduled a March 5 retrial.
A jury last week voted 11-1 to convict John Michael Neuhart II of assault with intent to commit rape during a burglary and attempted forcible rape, prompting Judge Kathleen Lewis to declare a mistrial.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tag alleged that Neuhart went with the female officer to her Valencia Park home in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, 2016, after a night of drinking downtown, and “ripped her clothes off and tried to rape her.”
The prosecutor said the woman — who had worked under Neuhart’s command in a helicopter squadron in Guam — respected the defendant but told him that night that she wasn’t interested in having sex with him.
“This is about a man taking what he wants,” Tag told the jury. “To the defendant, no didn’t mean no. This was a game to him.”
When Neuhart broke into the woman’s home and attacked her, she screamed like she was being “murdered,” prompting a neighbor to call 911, the prosecutor said.
The woman told the defendant, “I didn’t want this. I didn’t agree to this,” Tag told the jury.
Neuhart, 40, knew the woman was intoxicated, and was not going to leave her home “until he gets what he wants,” the prosecutor alleged. Once Neuhart broke in, he ordered her to get a condom so they could have sex, Tag told the jury.
The woman asked him why he would want to be with a woman who doesn’t want him, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, the prosecutor said.
In a video recorded by the defendant on his cell phone about 3 a.m., the woman is heard saying “no, stop,” or “get off” at least 90 times in a 15- minute period, Tag told the jury.
“This is not an issue of consent,” the prosecutor said. “This is a hard `no.”‘
Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong told the jury that the alleged victim was not telling the truth when she said that she wasn’t attracted to Neuhart. The woman gave the defendant mixed signals by kissing and hugging him during a limousine ride to her residence, Armstrong said.
Neuhart testified that he set up his cell phone outside the alleged victim’s door so he would have evidence in case she claimed rape.
The defendant, a married Iraq War veteran and father of six, was relieved as commander of the helicopter squadron after his arrest.
Neuhart — who is still in the Navy — faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge of assault with intent to commit rape during a burglary.