Recently Expanded 'Rape Shield' Law Tested in Air Force Cadet Sexual Assault Case

Recently expanded "rape shield" law tested in Air Force cadet sexual assault case

On Tuesday, contentions over pretrial evidentiary issues delayed the court martial of an Air Force cadet charged with sexually assaulting a female classmate.

The cadet charged in the court martial is Zachery Chubb, now a junior at the academy. Chubb is charged with sexual assault and abusive sexual contact, resulting from an incident in October of last year. He allegedly forced himself on a female cadet, grabbing her buttocks and forcing her to fondle his genitalia.

The pretrial issues dominating Tuesday's hearing concerned the admittance of the female cadet's past sexual history. Lawyers for Chubb and Air Force prosecutors made their arguments in a closed courtroom, out of the purview of the military jury and the public, alike.

This year, Congress - in an effort to toughen the military's stance on sexual assault – expanded the "rape shield" rule. The rule – found in the military evidence code – protects the privacy of the victim by preventing the jury from hearing any evidence of their past sexual history, except under specific circumstances.

Frequently, in cases involving alleged sexual assault or misconduct, the defendant will attempt to use the victim's sexual history to argue that he or she falsified their claim – a strategy deplored by victims' rights groups.

It is unclear what sparked the argument on Tuesday. Should the judge rule in Chubb's favor, however, the victim's past sexual conduct, if relevant, will be made public record.

Academy representatives believe arguments over whether to admit the victim's sexual history could proceed into Wednesday.

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