The Riverside County district attorney's office agreed Tuesday to allow the military to prosecute a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter accused of raping a 17-year-old girl at a Riverside recruiting station.
But a top county prosecutor said she is prepared to try the Marine, Staff Sgt. William Clayton Bragg of Murrieta, in Riverside County Superior Court if the military is too lenient.
"We have not dismissed our case. We want to watch and see what the outcome of the military prosecution is, to ensure justice is served," said Allison Nelson, the Riverside County supervising deputy district attorney.
Nelson said her definition of "justice served" would require a conviction, appropriate prison sentence and having Bragg register as a sex offender.
The alleged victim also would have to approve of the punishment.
If those don't happen, Bragg will be prosecuted in civilian court, she said.
Nelson's decision to turn the case over to the military came after a brief court hearing Tuesday, at which Bragg agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial. She said the military justice system is much more streamlined and would probably try the case much sooner.
The military also may add charges, including adultery, Nelson said.
Bragg, 32, attended the hearing with his wife. His civilian attorney, Robert Schwarz, declined to comment on specifics.Bragg, a 13-year Marine veteran, is accused of attacking a 17-year-old Corona girl on the evening of April 10 in the Riverside recruiting station.
The girl, a potential recruit whose boyfriend had recently signed up to join the Marines, told police she was alone with Bragg in the recruiting station after a physical conditioning class when she was raped.
Bragg has pleaded not guilty. According to a source close to the investigation, Bragg told police he had consensual sex with the girl.
Even if true, under military law Bragg could still face charges of adultery and statutory rape, as well as violations of Marine recruiting rules and regulations.
"Additional charges may be forthcoming," said Col. John Canham, the staff judge advocate for the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego who will oversee Bragg's military prosecution.
Canham said he expects to determine the charges by the end of the week.
Canham added that a military trial of Bragg could be concluded by November.
The military's case against Bragg will still hinge on the evidence gathered by the Riverside Police Department, which investigated the alleged crime scene and took statements from Bragg, the girl and her parents, Canham said.
A first-time rape offender is subject to a sentence of five to 10 years in a federal penitentiary, time that could be extended if Bragg is found guilty of additional charges, military experts say.
Eugene Fidell, a Washington, D.C., attorney and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said the district attorney's decision to turn the case over to the military was probably influenced by the high visibility of the case.
"It would be highly disturbing to the public if, in this postwar, nonconscription environment, a Marine recruiter accused of these activities avoided prosecution," Fidell said.
"The military has to deal with this. This is bad for business."