A military appeals court has upheld the conviction of a petty officer who went drinking, missed a pre-deployment class the next morning, asked a shipmate to "bruise her up" and then falsely reported a sexual assault to cover her tracks.
Assigned to the dock landing ship Fort McHenry, then-Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Micole A. Daugherty went drinking at a nightclub near Jacksonville, Florida, in December 2018 with another sailor, referred to by the pseudonym "Seaman Recruit Warren" in the August Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruling.
But Daugherty overslept the next morning and missed her pre-deployment firefighting class, the ruling states.
"Panicked that her tardiness would get her in trouble, she had Seaman Recruit Warren punch her in the face and drive her to a wooded area near base, where she rolled around in the dirt to make it look as though she had been in a struggle," the ruling states. "(Daugherty) then went to the base gate and told the security personnel she had been drinking with a man at a club and later woke up in the bushes outside the gate with pain in her vagina."
She reported the incident to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and agents and forensic analysts spent more than 400 hours investigating the case, according to the ruling.
After "extensively interviewing" another sailor as a suspect, collecting DNA and searching his cell phone and vehicle, security camera footage led agents to determine that Daugherty's report was false, the ruling states.
Warren testified at trial that the petty officer said to "'bruise her up' because she could not 'go in this late without something being wrong with [her],'" the ruling states.
Daugherty "admitted making the false report but testified that it was Seaman Recruit Warren's idea and that she only participated in the scheme because she was afraid of Seaman Recruit Warren," according to the ruling.
She was convicted on several charges "for conspiring with another Sailor to manufacture injuries and falsely reporting she was drugged and raped to avoid getting in trouble for missing a training class," the ruling states.
Daugherty was later sentenced to seven months' confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge, according to the ruling.
She could not be reached for comment.
Her Navy attorney for the appeal, Lt. Megan Horst, declined comment through a Navy Judge Advocate General Corps spokeswoman.
Daugherty's appeal was based on issues with members of the military jury in her case, and contentions that three of the four jury members had bias against her because they were assigned to the same ship.
The defense appeal argued that the trial defense failed to properly challenge those three jury members - a Fort McHenry senior chief and two junior officers - for potential bias.
But the appeals court struck down that argument, writing that the three only knew of Daugherty in passing, out of a ship with roughly 300 sailors onboard.
"We find no deficiency in the failure to individually challenge (the three military jury members from Daugherty's command) ... as Appellant's trial defense counsel correctly determined that the Defense 'didn't really have an articulate challenge for cause beyond the general objection that they were all part of the same command,'" the ruling states.
The "limited professional interactions" the three jury members from Fort McHenry had with Daugherty and the seaman recruit on the ship didn't provide any basis for disqualifying them, according to the appeals court.
The appeal also argues that a trial defense motion to throw out the entire jury pool and start over was improperly denied by the trial judge.
During the court-martial, the judge denied the request for a new panel and opted instead to address challenges to each member individually.
The appeals court ruled that the trial judge's decision was lawful.
"We are aware of no authority, and Appellant cites none, requiring the trial court to address such challenges collectively rather than individually," the appeal ruling states. "Thus, it was not error for the military judge to decline to do so."
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.