A military jury sentenced a U.S. Coast Guard cadet to prison and kicked him out of the service Wednesday for extorting a classmate for sexual favors.
Cadet Webster M. Smith, the first student court-martialed in the academy’s 130-year history, received a six-month sentence in a military prison.
He was acquitted of rape but faced up to five years and seven months for extortion, sodomy, indecent assault and other charges.
Defense attorneys for Smith, 23, asked the jury to spare him jail time, saying the stigma of his conviction will follow him forever. He will not graduate from the Coast Guard Academy and must register as a sex offender in Texas.
“I am ashamed to have been the first cadet to have been court-martialed, but I am proud of my decision to fight for my career and freedom,” Smith told the jury.
Acquitted of rape
Prosecutors had asked the jury to send Smith to prison for three years, saying he had disgraced the Coast Guard and betrayed the nation’s trust.
“You get to tell your fellow Coast Guardsmen, with everyone looking at our service and our academy, whether or not that’s a big deal,” said Cmdr. Ronald Bald, the prosecutor.
The case involved four female cadets, but the jury acquitted him of sexual misconduct charges, including rape, involving three of them. The primary charges on which he was convicted stemmed from a series of sexual encounters with a classmate in her dorm room.
The classmate said she was too afraid to protest because she feared Smith would reveal a secret that could have jeopardized her Coast Guard career. Smith, who testified in his own defense, said the sex was consensual.
Smith was not allowed to graduate with his class this spring and will be kicked out of the academy because of the convictions, attorneys said. A formal dismissal has not been made.
Graphic testimony, but no DNA
The weeklong trial included graphic testimony about Smith’s relationships with several female cadets. On Wednesday, the Houston man’s family and girlfriend portrayed his actions as the typical carousing of a college student but said the court-martial changed his life and brought him closer to God.
With no DNA or forensic evidence in the case, prosecutors relied on the testimony of Smith’s on-again, off-again girlfriend to carry the rape case. She testified that she had drunk two bottles of wine at a party in Annapolis, Md., last summer and couldn’t remember having sex with Smith.
Smith said that she drank far less that night and that the sex was consensual. He was acquitted on charges stemming from her accusations.