(Documentation is from the Department of Defense Inspector General report, February 1993)
VICTIM NUMBER 50
Victim 50 is LT. Paula Coughlin.
At the time of Tailhook '91, she was aide
to Rear Admiral John W. Snyder, United States
Navy, Commander, Naval Air Test
||Lieutenant (0-3) United States Navy/Female
|Date/Time of Incident:
||Saturday, September 7, 1991 11:30 p.m. |
|Place of Incident:
||Hallway, Third Floor, Las Vegas Hilton|
According to LT. Coughlin, she arrived at the third
floor hallway of the Hilton Hotel alone at approximately
11:30 p.m. Saturday evening. She entered the hotel
from the pool patio through the doors at the main
passenger elevators, turned
right and proceeded up the hallway.
As she approached the hallway, she found it to be loud and rowdy. Both sides of the hallway were lined with men leaning on the walls. As she began to walk up the hallway, there were approximately six to eight of the young men on each side of the hallway and two in the center of the hallway. Each had their backs to her at the head of the group. As she attempted to pass the man on the right side-the man intentionally bumped into her with his right hip. LT. Coughlin excused herself, and one of the men lining the
hallway yelled loudly, "Admiral's Aide!"
LT. Coughlin turned to look at the man who yelled. She
described the man who had first bumped into her as having dark skin with short dark hair, perhaps Hispanic or a light skinned black. She was grabbed by the
buttocks with such force that
it lifted her off the ground and ahead a step.
LT. Coughlin turned around and yelled at the man, "What the f-- do you think you are doing?" As she said that, she was grabbed on the buttocks by someone from behind. She turned and asked that individual the same question. The men
in the group began grabbing her breasts
as well as her buttocks.
LT. Coughlin described the assault as follows:
"The man with the dark complexion moved in immediately behind me with his body pressed against mine. He was bumping me, pushing me forward down the passageway where the group on
either side was pinching and then pulling at my clothing. The man then put both his hands down the front of my tank top and inside my bra where he grabbed my breasts. I dropped to a forward crouch position and placed my hands on the wrists of my attacker in an attempt to remove his hands... I sank my teeth into the fleshy part of the man's left forearm, biting hard. I thought I drew blood... I then turned and bit the man on the right hand at the area between the base of the thumb and base of the index finger." The man removed his hands, and another individual "reached up under my skirt and grabbed the crotch of my panties. I kicked one of my attackers ... I felt as though the group was trying to rape me. I was terrified and had no idea what was going to happen next."
LT. Coughlin attempted to escape into one of the
administrative suites, but her route was blocked by men who stood in the doorway and would not allow her through. The men in the crowd continued to grab at her buttocks and breasts, and she noticed that one of the men in the crowd turned and began to walk away. "I reached out and tapped him on the
right hip, pleading with the man to just let me get in front of him. The man stopped, turned ... and pivoted to a position directly in front of me. With this action, the man raised both his hands and put one on each of my breasts."
LT. Coughlin broke free and ran past him into an open door that led to one of the administrative suites. She sat in the room in the dark, "attempting to understand what had happened to me ... I was appalled not only by the brutality of the
incident, but the fact that the group did that to me knowing I was both a fellow officer and an admiral's aide."
According to one witness, a male Federal Government civilian employee, "I remember Coughlin enter the hallway. Coughlin stood in the hallway for a couple of minutes and then
proceeded down the hall. As she advanced through the area, the gauntlet collapsed around
her blocking her from my view. I recall Coughlin wrenching
around as she disappeared from sight.
I never saw her exit
the gauntlet." There were approximately
100 men in the hallway
at the time, none of whom the witness recognized.
A male Navy lieutenant stated that he saw a woman walk into the crowded hallway. He saw her get pinched on the buttocks by an unknown male. As the woman turned to confront the man, another male from the other side of the hallway pinched her on the buttocks. During the confrontation, he heard someone yell "Admiral's Aide!" Later, when the witness saw LT. Coughlin on television, he realized that she was probably the woman he witnessed being assaulted in the hallway.
Another male Federal Government employee witnessed part of the assault on LT. Coughlin. The witness saw a man standing in the hallway whom he described as the "master of ceremonies." The man appeared to be moving about in an animated fashion, trying to get women to walk through the gauntlet where the men in the hallway would then surround them. If a woman did not want to walk down the hallway, the man would physically pick them up and carry them down the hallway. The witness saw LT. Coughlin conversing with the "master of ceremonies," and it appeared that she was telling him she was a lieutenant and an admiral's aide. The witness saw a man come up behind LT.
Coughlin and grab her from behind, wrapping his arms all the way around her. LT. Coughlin started to struggle, bending over forward. At the same time LT. Coughlin was being
assaulted, another woman standing behind the witness was being grabbed by men in the hallway. The witness left the area
before LT. Coughlin emerged from the hallway.
During the course of our investigation, we received several allegations indicating that LT. Coughlin engaged in improper activity while at Tailhook '91. We investigated all such allegations but found that the allegations were based on hearsay testimony or were otherwise without merit. None of the people who told us about the alleged incidents or improper conduct involving LT. Coughlin actually witnessed the
incidents themselves nor could they
provide the identity of any eyewitnesses.
When interviewed, LT. Coughlin denied all allegations of
impropriety. No credible information was found to support the allegations of misconduct on the part of LT. Coughlin. As noted by one male officer, it appeared the allegations were fabricated to discredit LT. Coughlin for her public disclosure of facts concerning assaults at
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