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Marine Rapist Gets 5 Years

Court-martial outcome prompts Riverside County to drop its case against recruiter.

June 18, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A U.S. Marine court-martial panel Thursday sentenced a veteran recruiter convicted of raping a teenager training under his supervision in Riverside to five years in a military prison.

In addition to the prison sentence, Staff Sgt. William Clayton Bragg, 33, a 14-year Marine from Murrieta, received a dishonorable discharge.

The court-martial panel Wednesday convicted Bragg of rape, indecent assault, indecent language, indecent conduct, conduct to discredit the armed services and adultery for his actions against the rape victim and a second minor girl.

The second girl said she was subjected to unwanted fondling and sexually explicit language from Bragg as she participated in physical training courses at the Riverside recruiting station.

Maj. Paul M. Schimpf, who prosecuted Bragg, asked the six male members of the court-martial panel to sentence Bragg to at least 12 years in confinement, but when the five-year sentence was delivered, Schimpf said he was satisfied.

"It was my job to put all the facts of this case in front of the members, and I believe all the essential facts did come out," he said.

The Riverside County district attorney's office, which earlier filed a rape charge against Bragg after the April 10, 2003, incident with the then-17-year-old high school student from Corona, will drop its case against Bragg.

"We think justice has been served in military court, and we don't want to put the victims through another trial," said Michael Hestrin, a Riverside County deputy district attorney who was assigned to Bragg's case.

"Maj. Schimpf did a great job aggressively prosecuting the case. It was not an easy case, but it was a big win for him and for our community."

Schimpf conceded Thursday that his case was hamstrung by a lack of physical evidence implicating Bragg in the crime, including a rape examination of the girl that failed to show trauma.

Bragg, however, admitted to engaging in "consensual sex" with the victim, who has since turned 18.

"[Bragg] corroborated 95% of her story," Schimpf said.

The victim provided a detailed account of the rape in court, testifying that Bragg summoned her to a back room inside the Riverside recruiting station, shut the door, turned off the lights and "proceeded to force himself on me, he had intercourse with me."

In trial testimony, the victim explained the missing physical evidence by saying she was raped while pressed against a table, and that she was "disgusted" as Bragg "finished" and used a shirt of his to wipe up the spot on the floor where his bodily fluids had been left.

"It was a difficult case to prove, but the jury obviously believed her testimony," Hestrin said.

Hestrin said that the victims had been in contact with the district attorney's office and that the Corona woman said the sentence dealt by the court-martial panel was sufficient.

The case exposed the potential for problems in the Marine Corps' delayed-entry program, which allows adult recruiters to associate alone with minor prospective recruits.

But a spokesman at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, where Bragg was prosecuted, said there are no plans to revise existing policies in the delayed-entry program.

"There are good regulations and policies in place," said Lt. Anthony Del Signore.

"Staff Sgt. Bragg violated a solid rule and order, and he's been dealt with."

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