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Man accused of Antarctic assault was then despatched to distant icefield with younger graduate college students

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A person accused of bodily assaulting a lady at a U.S. analysis station in Antarctica was then despatched to a distant icefield the place he was tasked with defending the security of a professor and three younger graduate college students, and he remained there for a full week after a warrant for his arrest was issued, paperwork obtained by The Related Press present.

Stephen Tyler Bieneman has pleaded not responsible to misdemeanor assault over the incident final November at McMurdo Station, which his lawyer mentioned was nothing greater than “horseplay.” The case is because of go to trial Monday in Honolulu.

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

An AP investigation in August uncovered a sample of ladies at McMurdo who mentioned their claims of sexual harassment or assault have been minimized by their employers, usually resulting in them or others being put in additional hazard.

And on Friday, the watchdog workplace overseeing the NSF mentioned it was sending investigators to McMurdo this month because it expands its investigative mission to incorporate crimes equivalent to sexual assault and stalking.

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Of their indictment, prosecutors say that late on Nov. 24 or early Nov. 25 final yr, a lady was sitting in a dormitory lounge ready for her laundry when Bieneman, who had been celebrating his birthday with a number of drinks, walked in.

When he went to the toilet, the lady took his identify tag from his jacket as a prank after which refused to provide it again, working across the finish of a settee, prosecutors say.

Bieneman then took her to the ground, put her on her again and put his left shin over her throat as he rummaged by means of her pocket on the lookout for the tag, prosecutors say. The girl desperately tried to speak she could not breathe, signaling a choking movement and tapping on his leg as a minute handed earlier than Bieneman lastly discovered the tag and eliminated his shin from her airway, in keeping with the indictment.

Prosecutors say the lady visited a medical clinic.

“Throughout a follow-up go to every week later, Sufferer A reported enhancements with respect to muscle tightness, nevertheless she was affected by lack of sleep and urge for food, anxiousness, and melancholy on account of the assault,” prosecutors mentioned within the indictment. ”Quickly thereafter, Sufferer A left her employment at McMurdo Station.”

Bieneman’s lawyer Birney Bervar mentioned in an August e mail to the AP that eyewitnesses did not again the lady’s story and a health care provider who examined her quickly after the incident discovered no proof of “an assault of the character and diploma she described.”

Marc Tunstall, the NSF station supervisor who can be a sworn Deputy U.S. Marshal, heard in regards to the incident on Nov. 29 and started investigating, in keeping with prosecutors.

On Dec. 10, two weeks after the incident, Bieneman and the scientific workforce flew by Twin Otter airplane to arrange camp on the distant Allan Hills icefield, greater than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from McMurdo. The workforce, which research ice cores, was there to gather radar information to assist choose a web site for future ice-core drilling.

In his position as mountaineer, Bieneman was accountable for the security of the group within the unforgiving surroundings. The person initially assigned the position had suffered from a mini-stroke two days earlier than his deployment, in keeping with paperwork obtained by the AP.

Bieneman, who goes by his center identify Tyler, initially labored effectively with the workforce establishing camp.

“Nevertheless, quickly after, it turned clear that one thing was amiss with Tyler,” College of Washington Professor Howard Conway wrote on behalf of the COLDEX area workforce in a criticism to the NSF that was obtained by the AP.

Conway and the graduate college students didn’t reply to AP requests for remark.

Within the criticism, Conway described Bieneman as initially being “domineering and significant” of the 2 feminine graduate college students on the camp.

“One night within the kitchen tent through the first week, he advised the graduate college students that earlier within the season in McMurdo he had a struggle with a lady, throughout which he wrestled along with her, and he or she subsequently had bother respiration, and wanted medical consideration,” Conway wrote.

The professor mentioned Bieneman portrayed himself because the sufferer within the incident for being underneath scrutiny. He mentioned the graduate college students, fearing potential retaliation in the event that they disclosed the story, felt they needed to tiptoe round Bieneman.

“It was uncomfortable and nerve-racking to be round him as a result of it was not potential to really feel bodily or emotionally protected,” Conway wrote.

Court docket paperwork present an arrest warrant was issued for Bieneman on Dec. 12.

The professor wrote that Bieneman was lastly changed on the camp on Dec. 19. He mentioned they have been by no means advised Bieneman was underneath investigation or given a cause for him being pulled from his project. They pieced it collectively later when the case turned public.

“We have been astounded to seek out (1) Tyler was assigned to our workforce when it was already recognized that he was underneath investigation, and (2) that he remained within the area with us for a full week after he had been charged with assault,” Conway wrote within the criticism.

The NSF mentioned the questions on Bieneman’s camp project have been a part of an lively regulation enforcement matter and needs to be directed to the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace in Hawaii. The U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace in Hawaii didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In keeping with courtroom information, when Bieneman returned to McMurdo after the camp, he was fired, given a airplane ticket again to the U.S. and arrested when he landed in Hawaii. He was then launched on $25,000 bail pending Monday’s trial.


AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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