Acquitted of Rape, Midshipman May Face Assault Charge After July Hearing

Military Sexual Assaults Academies
An entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Md., is seen on Jan. 9, 2014. (Patrick Semansky/AP File Photo)

Whether a circuit court judge will be permitted to rehear an assault case against a Naval Academy midshipman now that the matter was successfully appealed by the state will be determined in July.

After a six-day trial in 2022, Garrett Lee Holsen was acquitted of raping one of his classmates at an off-campus party. Before deliberations began, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Robert Thompson instructed the jury not to consider any other charges in the case if they found the midshipman not guilty of rape. That is ultimately what the jury did, prompting the Office of the Attorney General to appeal the decision.

In December, the Appellate Court of Maryland ruled that Thompson had “acted without authority” when issuing his instructions and ordered a retrial on the remaining charges — second-degree assault and third-degree sex offense, the latter of which cannot be retried because jurors rejected the idea that the accuser was too intoxicated to consent.

Prosecutors said during a hearing Tuesday that the sex offense charge will be dropped and the retrial, which has yet to be scheduled, will not affect Holsen’s acquittal on the rape charge. Instead, it will focus on the assault accusation, a misdemeanor in Maryland.

Earlier this month, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess asked that Thompson be prevented from hearing the case again, saying his decisions in 2022 had “severely prejudiced” the state’s case. That request was denied Friday, however, by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Donna Schaeffer, who ruled it was normal procedure to have the same judge preside over a case that has been sent back.

Even with Schaeffer’s denial, Leitess argued Tuesday that Thompson’s continued role in the case was inappropriate and asked the judge to recuse himself. The county’s top prosecutor said her intention was “not to attack” or insult Thompson, but to defend her team’s case.

Defense attorney Peter O’Neill said Leitess’ request was a “blatant effort to stretch” out an already lengthy prosecution. O’Neill said Holsen, a Wisconsin native set to join the Marine Corps, was barred from attending the academy’s graduation ceremony in May because of the case, has not received his diploma and has not been deployed for assignment.

The case has stalled Holsen’s career, O’Neill said, asking that a trial be scheduled as soon as possible.

“We want this matter litigated,” O’Neill told the judge. “We are not afraid of trial.”

Leitess said that because the case was sent back by a higher court, there was no constitutional requirement for a speedy trial — an obligation in regular criminal proceedings. The judge, however, asked whether the court has a moral responsibility to move forward when it can.

“Here we are in this mess,” Thompson said, “and we’ll do our best to get out of it.”

A July 11 hearing will determine whether Thompson stays on the case.

The Naval Academy has declined to comment on Holsen’s case, citing privacy concerns.

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