JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. — A military preliminary hearing officer issued an extended recess Tuesday on the first day of a hearing to determine whether a former Army sexual assault special prosecutor will go to trial for raping and battering a woman he dated in 2016.
Capt. Scott Hockenberry is facing three counts of sexual assault and three counts of assault consummated by battery against a former romantic partner, who also is an Army judge advocate, in 2016, when they were based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Hockenberry, if convicted on all charges, faces up to 90 years in prison.
The alleged victim first reported the assaults in August 2016, both to the Lawton, Oklahoma, police and Army Criminal Investigation Command, according to evidence submitted for the hearing.
Hockenberry was reassigned to the Military District of Washington amid the investigation.
Much of the first day’s proceedings focused on taped interviews with those civilian and military investigators.
As the alleged victim declined to be involved in the Article 32, Hockenberry’s civilian attorney, Will Helixon, argued that the interviews should serve as her side of the story in evidence.
At issue in the proceedings is a Uniform Code of Military Justice rule that forbids bringing up a victim’s sexual history as evidence unless the person is given notification and the chance to respond ahead of time.
The rule, first implemented in 2014, changed the nature of the military’s Article 32 proceedings for sexual assault cases, in which invasive questions about an alleged victim’s sexual past were normal and expected.
Helixon and his team, though they invited the alleged victim to attend the hearing, did not notify her in writing that they intended to play the tapes in an open hearing, said preliminary hearing officer Lt. Col. Jenevieve Murphy.
The Army’s prosecutor argued that playing the unredacted interviews, which include discussion of the alleged victim’s sexual relationship with Hockenberry prior to the alleged assaults, would be an unnecessary spectacle, considering Murphy could watch the videos on her own, in private.
“The purpose is not to present it to the public,” said Lt. Col. Carol Brewer. “The purpose is to present it to the [preliminary hearing officer].”
Helixon argued that the tapes contain crucial evidence, and that his team would not know which facts he could bring up in a potential court-martial unless the hearing officer watched the tape with his team and specified for him which parts of the interviews would be inadmissable because of the so-called “rape shield law.”
“It‘s not a spectacle,” he said. “It’s evidence that the government is using to say that my client should go to prison for 90 years.”
In the end, the two legal teams agreed to have transcripts of the videos redacted for military rules of evidence violations so that the defense would have a clear understanding of what the preliminary hearing officer would consider in her recommendations to a convening authority. The convening authority will then determine whether the case goes to trial.
Though the military case has mostly played out behind closed doors, Hockenberry and the alleged victim have been in a legal battle in Oklahoma for more than a year.
The alleged victim filed a protective order against Hockenberry in an Oklahoma court in August 2016. Army Times does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
She alleged that Hockenberry had once held a knife to her throat during an assault, according to court documents.
Hockenberry denies all of the allegations, and has filed a defamation claim against the woman.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.