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Jury finds man not responsible of assaulting girl at U.S. analysis station in Antarctica Specific Occasions

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A federal jury on Wednesday discovered a person not responsible of assaulting a lady at a U.S. analysis station in Antarctica in a case that drew consideration amid reviews of harassment and assault on the station.

Stephen Tyler Bieneman pulled tissues from a field on the protection desk and cried as every juror was polled and mentioned they discovered him not responsible of misdemeanor assault in reference to an incident final November at McMurdo Station. Jurors deliberated for 1-1/2 hours after a day through which Bieneman testified that he did not provoke the incident or hurt the girl.

Antarctica Assault Case
Stephen Tyler Bieneman, proper, stands outdoors the federal courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Honolulu.

Mengshin Lin / AP

“It is taken an enormous toll on my popularity,” he mentioned outdoors the courtroom. “This vindicates him,” mentioned his lawyer, Birney Bervar.

The decision got here amid elevated scrutiny of McMurdo. An Related Press investigation in August uncovered a sample of ladies at McMurdo who mentioned their claims of sexual harassment or assault had been minimized by their employers, typically resulting in them or others being put in additional hazard.

Final week, the watchdog workplace overseeing the Nationwide Science Basis mentioned it was sending investigators to McMurdo because it expands its investigative mission to incorporate alleged crimes resembling sexual assault and stalking.

Assistant U.S. Lawyer Mohammad Khatib advised jurors this week in U.S. District Court docket in Honolulu that Bieneman bought on high of the girl after she took his nametag from his coat as a joke. The prosecutor mentioned Bieneman pinned her down and put his shin throughout her throat, stopping her from with the ability to breathe.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Khatib mentioned Bieneman might have critically injured or killed the girl.

Bieneman, a area security coordinator skilled in conducting searches and rescues, testified that the girl “type of instantly bought in my face” when he returned to a dormitory lounge after celebrating his birthday and Thanksgiving with a bunch. Based on his testimony, she had cursed at him and was upset she wasn’t invited to the gathering.

At one level he left the lounge to return a key to a hut he used for the get together. When he returned, he observed one of many alcoholic seltzers he left behind was open. He mentioned he requested the girl if she took it, and he or she mentioned she additionally took his nametag.

“I mentioned, ‘Hey that is not cool … please give it again,'” Bieneman testified. “She mentioned, ‘You are going to must combat me for it.'” He mentioned she grabbed his arms and fell onto her again whereas holding on to him.

“She was utilizing all of her power in opposition to me to forestall me from getting my nametag again,” he testified.

Bieneman denied placing his shin on her neck.

“Not solely did I not assault her, I used to be attempting my absolute hardest to not damage her,” he mentioned.

Dr. Christopher Martinez, the doctor who later examined the girl, testified Wednesday that he had expressed doubts that she was assaulted. Beneath cross-examination by Khatib, the physician denied trivializing her complaints of ache.

After the incident, Bieneman was despatched to a distant icefield the place he was tasked with defending the security of a professor and three younger graduate college students. He remained there for a full week after a warrant for his arrest was issued, paperwork obtained by the AP present.

The professor wrote in a criticism that Bieneman was “domineering and significant” of the 2 feminine graduate college students on the camp and that he advised them he had had a combat with a lady at McMurdo. The professor wrote that they had been astounded to seek out he was assigned to the group when it was already recognized that he was underneath investigation.

Bieneman mentioned outdoors of court docket that he was shocked by the professor’s criticism. “I assumed I had relationship with them,” he mentioned. “I felt I stored them secure and labored arduous.”

The Nationwide Science Basis declined to reply AP’s questions on why Bieneman was despatched out into the sphere in a crucial security function whereas underneath investigation. The case raised additional questions on decision-making within the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is underneath scrutiny.

Bervar, Bieneman’s lawyer, mentioned after the trial that the scrutiny unfairly led to his shopper being charged.

The prosecutor mentioned he was disenchanted by the decision. “We felt like we had a righteous case,” Khatib mentioned.

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