NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A locally based Navy SEAL accused of kidnapping and rape told his side of the story in a court-room video as the court-martial trial picks back up in Norfolk.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Stephen Varanko III is assigned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. He is accused of sexually assaulting a Navy sailor in a hotel room in Kentucky.
The first day of the of trial revealed that Chief Varanko and his accuser had a past romantic relationship for several years.
Both sides admitted the relationship happened behind the back of Varanko’s girlfriend at the time, who is now his wife.
The alleged incident reportedly took place during a training mission in 2015. Both stayed in separate hotel rooms at the time.
The female sailor took the stand Tuesday, and testified that in a jealous rage, Varanko held her captive, attacked her and eventually raped her. She claimed this happened after Varanko found out she had been dating another man.
The defense countered that claim, saying Varanko did get jealous and yelled at her the night in question. However, they say Varanko never assaulted the sailor and that the sex was consensual.
Both used text evidence to support their arguments. The sailor’s counsel a text message to her from Varanko that said: “What I did to you – terrifies my existence.”
The defense showed text messages and a video from her after the alleged incident, where she is seen proclaiming her love for him.
Wednesday, an NCIS officer took the stand and showed his hour-long interrogation video.
In the video, a visibly upset Chief Varanko admits to a relationship with the victim which went on for several years — all the way through his engagement and marriage to his wife.
The officer asked him about the February night in the Kentucky hotel room. Varanko admitted that he got jealous that victim dated another man. He said in the video, “I lost my head.”
“I don’t deny that I got physical with her.”
However, Varanko clarified he never choked her, never hit her and never held her captive in his room.
In the video, Varanko said he is completely shocked by the rape accusation. Several times, he repeats that he didn’t rape the victim.
Then, in detail, he talked about the intimate moments of that night. He said the sex was consensual, like every other time during their relationship.
In the interrogation, the NCIS officer read Varanko text messages he sent to the victim. Between the two of them, the officer said they sent 19,000 text messages. In several messages, Varanko apologized for what happened in the hotel room.
At the end of the interrogation, Varanko said, unprovoked, he had no excuse for how he acted that night. Then, he repeats again that he didn’t assault or rape the victim.
If convicted, Varanko faces a lifetime without parole.
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