A man accused of assaulting a woman at the U.S. research station in Antarctica pulled out tissues and cried in court after jury members found him not guilty.
A federal jury on Wednesday found Stephen Tyler Bieneman not guilty of assaulting a woman at McMurdo Station in Antarctica in a case that drew attention amid a flurry of sexual harassment and assault reports.
Bieneman pulled tissues from a box on the defense table and cried as each juror was polled and said they found him not guilty of misdemeanor assault in connection with an incident last November at McMurdo Station.
Jurors deliberated for over an hour after Bieneman testified that he didn’t initiate the incident or harm the woman.
Bieneman was accused of kneeling on a female colleague’s neck until she couldn’t breathe after she stole his nametag for a prank in November last year.
Stephen Tyler Bieneman walks out of a U.S. courthouse after the first day of his trial in Honolulu, on Nov. 6, 2023
Stephen Tyler Bieneman, right, stands outside the federal courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Mengshin Lin)
The National Science Foundation published a report in 2022 which revealed 59% of women said they’d experienced harassment or assault while stationed in Antarctica, and 72% of women said such behavior was a problem on the bases
But despite the allegation, and subsequent investigation, he was given a safety post at a remote icefield and remained there for a week after a warrant for his arrest was issued.
The professor he was posted with told AP ‘it was uncomfortable and stressful to be around him because it was not possible to feel physically or emotionally safe.’
Bieneman said outside of court that he was surprised by the professor’s complaint. ‘I thought I had a good relationship with them,’ he said. ‘I felt I kept them safe and worked hard.’
The case came just weeks after investigators were sent to Antarctica because AP unleashed a chilling report revealing that over half of the women working at the continent’s U.S. base have experienced sexual violence.
‘It’s taken a huge toll on my reputation,’ Bieneman said outside the courtroom. ‘This vindicates him,’ said his attorney, Birney Bervar.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammad Khatib told jurors this week in U.S. District Court in Honolulu that Bieneman got on top of the woman after she took his nametag from his coat as a joke. The prosecutor said Bieneman pinned her down and put his shin across her throat, preventing her from being able to breathe.
In his closing argument Wednesday, Khatib said Bieneman could have seriously injured or killed the woman.
The isolated community was exposed by an AP investigation that uncovered dramatic rates of sexual assault and harassment – amongst other claims that women’s outcries were not taken seriously
The investigation was inspired by a marine diesel mechanic from Maine who confessed she kept a hammer in her sports bra to protect herself because she was crippled with fear that she was going to be sexually assaulted or killed (Pictured Liz Monahon – the mechanic)
Bieneman, a field safety coordinator trained in conducting searches and rescues, testified that the woman ‘kind of immediately got in my face’ when he returned to a dormitory lounge after celebrating his birthday and Thanksgiving with a group.
According to his testimony, she had cursed at him and was upset she wasn’t invited to the gathering.
At one point he left the lounge to return a key to a hut he used for the party. When he returned, he noticed one of the alcoholic seltzers he left behind was open.
He said he asked the woman if she took it, and she said she also took his nametag.
‘I said, `Hey that´s not cool … please give it back,” Bieneman testified. ‘She said, `You’re going to have to fight me for it.”
He said she grabbed his arms and fell onto her back while holding on to him.
‘She was using all of her strength against me to prevent me from getting my nametag back,’ he testified.
Bieneman denied putting his shin on her neck.
‘Not only did I not assault her I was trying my absolute hardest not to hurt her,’ he said.
Dr. Christopher Martinez, the physician who later examined the woman, testified Wednesday that he had expressed doubts that she was assaulted.
An affidavit obtained by DailyMail.com revealed that Stephen Tyler Bieneman – who served on a search and rescue team at the US National Science Foundation base in Antarctica – was arrested for placing his shin on a female’s throat until she couldn’t breathe
FILE – McMurdo Station, a United States Antarctic research station, is photographed from the air on Oct. 27, 2014. Stephen Tyler Bieneman, accused of assaulting a woman at a U.S. research station in Antarctica, testified at his trial Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, that he never hurt her during a physical altercation in a dorm lounge last year. Bieneman has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault over the incident at McMurdo Station. (National Science Foundation via AP, File)
A sign is photographed at McMurdo Station, a United States Antarctic research station
Under cross-examination by Khatib, the doctor denied trivializing her complaints of pain.
The National Science Foundation declined to answer AP’s questions about why Bieneman was sent out into the field in a critical safety role while under investigation.
The case raised further questions about decision-making in the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is under scrutiny.
Bervar, Bieneman´s attorney, said after the trial that the scrutiny unfairly led to his client being charged.
The prosecutor said he was disappointed by the verdict. ‘We felt like we had a righteous case,’ Khatib said.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk