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Philippine Court Finds US Marine Guilty of Rape, Acquits 3 Others

A court in the Philippines has found a U.S. Marine guilty of raping a local woman last year and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. But as Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila, the court acquitted three other Marines at the close of a trial that has generated massive publicity.

The court in Manila found Lance Corporal Daniel Smith guilty Monday of raping the woman in a van outside a bar.

The incident took place in November of 2005 near the former U.S. naval base of Subic Bay, north of the capital.

Smith denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual. But the court said it was "morally convinced" the 21-year-old Marine had committed the crime. The judge said Smith knew the woman was drunk, and could not have consented.

The court acquitted three other Marines, saying the rape charge against them had not been proven.

The defendants stood silently as the verdict was announced, but the victim, identified only as "Nicole" in the news media here, burst into tears and hugged a companion.

Evalyn Ursua, the victim's attorney, says she feels victorious, not only for the woman, but for the Philippines as a whole.

"We feel that we have shown to the world that we did right in fighting to the very end," she said. " And of course we salute Nicole, who did not give up to the very end … Everyone knows we did this not just for Nicole, but for the Filipino nation, for every Filipino."

The four Marines had claimed the woman was being manipulated to incriminate Smith. The case received heavy publicity in the Philippine media, and generated some anti-American protests and demonstrations.

Father James Reuter is a Catholic priest who acted as a counselor to the accused men. He says the massive publicity influenced the trial and the conviction was unjust.

"I think that these boys were tried by headline, they were tried by the media, and the media went with the first ghastly headlines, which were not true, " he said.

Smith's attorney says he will appeal the verdict. The Marine is being held temporarily at a Manila jail while the U.S. and Philippine governments work out where he will serve his sentence, under the terms of a treaty known as the Visiting Forces Agreement. During the trial, the defendants were in the custody of the U.S. embassy.