In February 1997, Todd Forbes, a U.S. Navy petty officer first class stationed at the Navy Recruiting Station in Somerset, Kentucky, was accused of rape, indecent assault, indecent language, adultery and orders violations arising from the complaint of a woman that he had assaulted her.
The charges stemmed from alleged relationships with four high school-age girls who had expressed interest in enlisting in the Navy. After his alleged misconduct was reported to Naval authorities, Forbes, who was married, was charged with trying to cover it up by telling some of the victims not to say anything to investigators.
At his court-martial in August 1998, Forbes did not testify. He was acquitted of two rapes and convicted of a third, along with charges of sodomy, indecent assault, indecent language and orders violations. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and sent to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
On May 11, 2004, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals set aside the decision and sentence. The court found that the trial judge had committed error. The judge granted a defense request that he not read a jury instruction that said a defendant did not have to testify and that the jury should not infer anything from a defendant’s decision not to testify. But the judge read the instruction anyway, though he did apologize later to the defense.
The appeals court held that reading the instruction may have highlighted Forbes’ decision not to testify.
Forbes remained in prison pending the prosecution’s appeal of the decision. The decision was affirmed on appeal and Forbes went to a second court-martial in April 2006.
At the second court-martial, the defense called the ex-husband of the woman who had claimed she had been raped and he testified that she lied. He said she admitted to him that she framed Forbes so she could file a Federal Tort Claims Act suit. In fact, the suit was filed, but it had been dismissed.
Forbes was acquitted. At the conclusion of the trial, Forbes and his wife—who had remained with him during the entire ordeal—were called before the court and praised for their actions in fighting the case.
– Maurice Possley