IMAGE: U.S. Marine in Philippine police custody
Aaron Favila / AP
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, center, is escorted by Philippine police at the Makati Central Police Station on Monday. Smith has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the rape of a Filipino woman.
updated 12/4/2006 10:53:14 AM ET 2006-12-04T15:53:14

A U.S. Marine was convicted Monday of raping a Filipino woman and sentenced to 40 years in prison, ending an emotional trial that has strained U.S.-Philippine ties and tested a joint military pact.

Three other Marines and their Filipino driver were acquitted of complicity.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, 21, from St. Louis, was the first American soldier convicted of wrongdoing in the Philippines since the country shut down U.S. bases here the early 1990s. His lawyer, Ricardo Diaz, said he would appeal.

Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood and Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis, who had been accused of cheering Smith on, were freed.

Smith, who was in the country for joint training, did not deny having sex with the 23-year-old woman but testified that it was consensual.

The court said the woman, known publicly by her pseudonym “Nicole,” was so intoxicated that she could not have consented to sex, pointing to testimony that Smith carried her to a van where the incident occurred on Nov. 1, 2005.

“He was the one who was on top of the complainant, who resisted his kisses, pushed him and fought him back until she lost consciousness because of alcoholic drinks she had taken,” said the decision by Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court. A court employee read the decision live on national television.

Penalty intended to make a statement
Pozon said in English that the severe penalty was aimed “to protect women against the unbridled bestiality of persons who cannot control their libidinous proclivity.”

Some cheers and applause broke out in the courtroom, and Nicole began weeping as supporters embraced her.

“We’re very happy, we laud Judge Pozon for showing courage and judicial independence,” the woman’s lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, said.

Strained relations
About 100 protesters had gathered outside the courthouse, demanding the government scrap the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement that allows U.S. troops to train with Philippine troops after the Philippine Senate ordered U.S. bases shut down in the early 1990s.

Under the pact, the Marines were placed under U.S. custody during the court proceedings.

The U.S. military presence in the Philippines has been credited with helping Filipino troops crack down on Muslim militants in the country’s south but activists have rallied against the treaty, saying it favored Washington.

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Video: Marine sentenced to 40 years for rape

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