EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A trial over allegations of sexual assault against a Fort Bliss soldier continued on Tuesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys jousted over the case.
Private First Class (Pfc.) Christian Alvarado stands accused of several sexual assault charges. A court-martial trial began this week.
On Tuesday, the court revealed that Special Agent Aaron Postma, who testified on Monday as a Senior Interviewer in the Criminal Investigations Unit (CID), was in fact a polygraph administrator.
Postma administered two polygraphs on Alvarado pertaining to two victims: the late Asia Graham, and another accuser. Graham was found unresponsive in her barracks on New Year’s Eve and was later pronounced dead by the Fort Bliss Department of Emergency Services personnel – family says it was from asphyxiation.
The defense kicked-off around 9:30am, with defense attorneys asking Postma, 34, about his education level.
Postma testified that Closed Circuit TV was used to film and record the interview for records. He also said that he reviewed Special Agent James Diamond’s case summaries of his interviews with Alvarado to avoid any bias that may arise from viewing the video footage.
Interview techniques used by Postma included rapport building and minimization. And, part of the rapport building process, Postma said, is using words that are in the examinee’s lexicon.
“P**sy hits the radar of don’t give a sh*t when you’re drunk,” is an example he used when discussing whether Graham was conscious during intercourse with Alvarado.
“Even if she was having the greatest time of her f***ing life,” he added.
The defense then questioned if Postma watered things down to Alvarado to elicit a false statement.
“I ensure I have the most accurate information to perform a good test,” Postma testified.
Alvarado did not pass the first polygraph test and his responses contradicted his initial statements to Diamond.
He’d later fail the other three.
According to Postma, Alvarado’s story changed when it came to if Graham lost consciousness during sex.
Alvarado said she passed out about halfway through intercourse. He knew this because Graham stopped moaning and her eyes were closed, as if asleep.
Postma asked Alvarado questions about sexual deviancy as it relates to generating questions related to a sexual assault accusation.
Sexual deviancy is now characterized by psychologists as “paraphilic disorders.”
Paraphilic disorders pertain to sexual desires and behaviors involving another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death; or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or anyone unable to give consent.
The polygraph results are used as leverage to address statement inconsistencies and to enable Postma to “score a good chart,” rather than an instrument of intimidation, said the Judge.
“The results are not relevant,” said the Judge, “it’s all about how the statements are presented to the court.”
Shortly before a 90 minute lunch recess, arguments presented to the court by the defense and prosecution posed a multiple choice question to the Judge.
- A sexual deviant who seeks to injure a partner or pursues unwilling partners
- An opportunist who has sex with women while they’re passed out
- Both 1 and 2
Two accusers were called to testify after lunch, their families sitting sad and serious behind the prosecution.
Alvarado kept his head down when one accuser was called. He began blinking rapidly at the legal pad in front of him.
The accuser testified that Alvarado raped her on May 8, 2020, which was the same day they met.
The individual, who worked as a chaplain’s assistant and was in Alvarado and Graham’s unit, said she met Alvarado in the afternoon at a gun range.
The two exchanged Snapchat handles and began corresponding.
She invited him to a house party later that night.
Alvarado arrived with a mutual friend, Pfc. Jovan Elliot, who brought a bottle of Hennessy with him.
“Everyone was drinking and taking shots,” she said.
She said Alvarado went to McDonalds with her to pick up a late night meal.
Her next memory after pulling into the McDonald’s drive-thru on Dyer was being inside a hotel room the following morning. She was wearing Alvarado’s shorts and did not know where she was.
Alvarado flushed throughout her testimony while his eyes teared and he tapped his pointer and middle fingers to his lips as though in thought.
The prosecution rested and it was the defense’s turn to begin its back-and-forth with the accusers.
“You drink pretty regularly?” asked the defense attorney once at the podium.
“I’d say maybe every other weekend,” she replied.
“You remember that you were romantically interested in him?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t say I was interested,” she said, “he was just, like, a friend.”
“You don’t remember kissing him?” the prosecutor asked.
“No sir,” she said.
“Do you remember wanting to spend the night with him?”
“No sir,” she responded.
“You were upset that he left the hotel room, weren’t you?”
“I don’t remember, sir.”
“Weren’t you upset that people could hear you moaning through the wall?”
“I didn’t know I had sex with him until the next day, when Elliot told me.”
She disclosed the assault to investigators on June 1, 2020 and was asked to text Alvarado and initiate a conversation.
They instructed her to use colloquial language that included many “LOL”s and “LMAO”s.
“Were you trying to get with Alvarado?” asked the prosecution.
“Were you trying to get him to talk?”
Eventually, Alvarado did.
Alvarado wrote that he “was messed up like everyone else that night” and that she helped him vomit in the hotel room’s toilet.
She was friends with Graham and testified that she helped counsel Graham as part of her role as a chaplain’s assistant.
Both the accuser and Alvarado began audibly sobbing at the beginning of questioning about Graham.
She was asked by the defense about her knowledge concerning allegations that Graham was buying and selling drugs, to which the prosecution objected.
The parties rested and the Judge asked her his own questions.
“What kind of hotel? Was it a single-story motel or multi-story?”
“Two stories, I think we were on the second,” she said.
“Where were your clothes?”
“On the floor,” she said.
“Were you wearing a bra, shirt, or underwear?” asked the Judge.
“Yes, yes, yes.”
“You said you woke up in his shorts, what kind? Were they P.T. or another kind?”
“Lounge shorts,” she said.
“Have you ever blacked out before?” asked the Judge.
“Yes,” she said, “but this is the first time with no memory.”
She was temporarily dismissed and returned to the witness room.
Alvarado kept his eyes down and held his breath as she walked from the witness stand across the court.
The prosecution called Elliot, Alvarado’s and the accuser’s mutual friend who was at the house party the night of May 8, 2020.
“We were friends until the recent happenings,” said Elliot shortly after taking the stand.
Elliot testified that the accuser seemed “fine” when he and Alvarado arrived at the party.
“Once I got there with the bottle, everyone started indulging,” he said.
Alvarado and the accuser, said Elliot, went shot-for-shot with his Hennessy for six rounds before the group all started to dance.
He noticed Alvarado and Graham making out sometime around midnight.
A few of the remaining women asked Elliot for a ride back to base. Fort Bliss was enforcing curfews as part of COVID-19 protocols and they didn’t want to be locked out.
He dropped off the women.
Alvarado and the accuser were back with McDonald’s by the time he returned.
At this point, he said, she was visibly drunk.
Elliot said he went outside of the house party, and they were gone by the time he went back in.
He called Alvarado who said he took the woman to a hotel, rather than the home his girlfriend was asleep at.
Elliot asked if he could crash at the hotel because it was past curfew.
“He said ‘yeah, just give me a minute’,” Elliot testified.
Elliot arrived at the hotel and Alvarado asked for more time alone.
He put his ear to the door and said he could hear a woman’s moans.
Eventually Alvarado opened the door with a bath towel around his waist and Elliot saw the woman’s partially exposed buttocks as she laid on the bed, part of her body covered by the sheet.
“Alvarado told me I could ‘hit it’,” Elliot testified, “and I took that to mean I could have a turn at having sex with her.”
Elliot said the woman was very drunk.
“She was slurring, I could smell the alcohol with each word she said — she was definitely drunk,” he recalled.
“I did not have sex with her because I thought it would be unorthodox.”
The prosecution yielded to the defense, which entered Defense Exhibit Echo into evidence, which was Elliot’s CID statement attesting to having heard groaning through the door.
“Did you feel like you saw a sexual assault?” asked the defense attorney regarding Elliot’s testimony of Survivor 3’s appearance and demeanor upon his arrival.
“Not at first, but then I learned more — yes.”
The defense yielded and the prosecution had two more questions:
- “You could tell she was drunk at the hotel?”
- “Did Alvarado know she was drunk?”
Elliot testified “yes” to both and was temporarily dismissed.
After a short recess, Another woman was called to testify just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
She testified she dated Alvarado in Mesa, Arizona between April 2017 to February 2019.
She was 18, and he told her he was 19.
She later found out he lied and was 17.
“This was my first serious relationship,” she said, “and then things began to unravel.”
She testified that she became afraid of him after a series of verbal threats.
The defense objected, to which the prosecution argued the statement directly related to the charge of sexual assault by use of fear.
Alvarado visited Mesa for the holidays in 2018.
She testified she and Alvarado were still dating when he raped her twice.
Alvarado’s bottom lip began to tremble and he pinched it between his thumb and forefinger.
The first assault happened around December 28, 2018, she said and started inside his grandmother’s house.
“I noticed he had hickeys on his neck that definitely were not from me,” she said. “Then he lied and said it was burns.”
She said she felt disrespected and went into his uncle’s room to grab her belongings and go home.
His uncle was awake in his room, she said.
She said she had a head start in going to her car, but that Alvarado caught up to her near her car when the key got caught in the door.
“I ran down the street, like ‘flight or fight.’ He tackled me from behind on the sidewalk and told me to shut up or we’d both get in trouble, and he made sure I did,” she said.
“I wanted him to leave me alone.”
She testified that Alvarado then pulled her up by the base of her pony tail with such force that she came off the ground.
He moved his grip from her ponytail to the back of her neck, and steered her to the car.
“He picked me up and put me in the backseat,” she said.
Alvarado got into the driver’s seat and took the highway route to the house she lived at with her mother, about a 25 minute ride.
She said that Alvarado could not remember how to get to her house and demanded instructions.
“I just wanted to go home,” she said.
Alvarado remained visibly emotional throughout her recollection.
Upon arrival, he sat her up from a lying position in the backseat of her car, slid her over, and carried her inside the house.
“My house key was on the same keychain as my car keys that he had,” she said.
She testified she was taken to her bedroom, on the opposite side of the house where her mother was asleep.
Both she and her mother (present at the court-martial) are small women. She testified that she is 4 feet and 11 inches. Alvarado is maybe 5’9, much taller than both women.
He laid her down on her bed, and then went to the private bathroom inside her room.
She said Alvarado returned from the bathroom, lying down next to her on the bed.
“I wanted to be left alone and he did not respect my request to leave,” she said.
She said that at this point Alvarado straddled her and said they were going to talk.
Next, she said he pinned her wrists above her head and began taking her pants down.
“He pulled his pants down and raped me,” she said.
She said she repeatedly said “no” and “stop.”
“I was not turned on in any way,” she emphasized, “he inserted his penis in my vagina without consent.”
“He finished inside me, without my consent,” she said.
She said that between the assaults in the street and her room, as well as the fear, she was exhausted and scared.
“I stopped fighting because I knew it wasn’t going to end until he wanted it to end,” she said.
She did not cry out to her mom for help.
“I wish I had screamed,” she said, “I just didn’t want to cause a commotion. I wanted to respect my family.”
After the assault, Alvarado went back to her bathroom to shower and she said she disassociated.
Alvarado spent the night and she drove him home the next morning.
Despite the assault, she testified she continued dating Alvarado.
Around January 2, 2019, she said a second assault occurred that again started at his grandmother’s home.
She noticed Alvarado’s phone flashing and saw the names of various women that he was flirting with.
“I said ‘we’re done,’ ‘I’m done.’ And he let me leave this time,” she said.
Her testimony was that the couple often argued that ended in makeup sex, but that the two assaults were distinct from that.
Alvarado was dropped off later at her home, after the two agreed to reconcile.
She confronted him about his infidelities and said his unfaithfulness made her feel stupid.
“He said ‘well, you kind of are,” she testified.
She asked him to leave and he pinned her down, straddled her, and grabbed her thigh hard enough to leave a bruise.
“He began to rub it out so as not to leave a bruise,” she said, “like he had done before.”
He pulled off her pants and forced penetration.
“I felt like I was sitting on my own shoulder watching it happen to myself,” she said.
She said that she initially didn’t disclose either alleged assault because she did not know it was assault.
“He convinced me that a husband can’t rape a wife, and that a boyfiend can’t rape a girlfriend,” she said.
“When we’d see news stories about a husband that raped a wife, he’d say it’s impossible,” Survivor 4 testified.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) “as a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.”
The term describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm for a current or former parter / spouse.
1 in 4 women in the U.S. have experienced sexual or physical violence, and / or stalking by an intimate partner, while 43 million women have experienced psychological aggression by a partner in their lifetime.
The cost of IPV over the course of a woman’s lifetime is $103,767, and $23,414 for men.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994, and amended in 1996 to recognize that domestic violence is a crime.
“You didn’t get up and leave the room after the second alleged assault?” asked the defense in its turn to question the woman
“I offered to call him an Uber,” she said.
Instead, she drove him home.
Next, the defense asked about Survivor 4’s confrontation with Alvarado over the hickeys before the first assault, and the messages prior to the second.
“I told him it was disrespectful,” she said.
“When he held you down, pinned you down, and penetrated you — you didn’t think that was disrespectful?” asked the defense.
She reiterated that at the time she was unclear about the definition of IPV.
“I thought rape was not from a partner,” she said. “I thought it was from a stranger or someone you don’t like.”
Besides that, Alvarado had been convincing and seemed sincere when he promised to stop cheating on her.
“I thought we were in love,” she said.
She wanted the future she believed in to be real.
“But I didn’t trust him,” she said.
The relationship ended in February 2019.
The prosecution asked Survivor 4 about an expensive medical procedure she needed that was caused by Alvarado. The prosecution asserted he offered to pay for it but only made a partial payment.
Attorneys for the defense shot up to object, and a closed session was conducted.
She was temporarily dismissed after the closed session, at which point the defense circled back to Monday’s testimonies.
Pfc. Marzzio Plancarte, Alvarado’s former roommate who was present the night of the alleged Graham assault, testified that he and Graham were buying and selling vape cartridges for cannabis pens.
She testified she was privy to the dealing.
The defense argued that factors including drug dealing and interconnectedness of the witness relationships created a motive for the late Graham to fabricate her allegations against Alvarado.
The prosecution argued that Graham’s testimony was not at issue because no testimony from Graham exists.
“The Government deliberately did not include statements from Graham because her credibility is not at issue,” said the prosecution.
Graham never gave a video testimony that was recorded — because of COVID-19 — and did not provide a written statement to CID.
The prosecution asserted that only summaries of Graham’s statements were provided.
“Graham’s character and bias wouldn’t come into play unless she was on the stand and no statements by Graham were elicited as evidence,” said the prosecution.
The defense argued that Graham was biased against Alvarado, and suggested she, Plancarte, and Survivor 3 were in cahoots, as well as dealing drugs together.
Both Plancarte and Survivor 3 asserted they did not remember certain moments or phrases when recounting the sequence of events in testimony.
“Maybe they don’t remember because they were buying and selling drugs,” the defense told the Judge before adjourning for the day.