CAMP PENDLETON — A female Marine was convicted Wednesday of "attempted adultery" and lying to investigators in a case involving allegations of sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse in the enlisted ranks.
The Marine, a staff sergeant with 17 years' service, could receive a year in the brig and a bad-conduct discharge when the judge, Lt. Col. Leon Francis, announces the sentence Thursday. She was convicted of attempting "to have sexual intercourse with … a man not her husband," but she was acquitted of adultery.
The military seldom files a criminal charge for adultery. The offense must be seen as prejudicial "to good order and discipline," an allegation in this case tied to the fact that the defendant, her husband and the man with whom she allegedly had sex were all part of the same logistics group stationed at Camp Pendleton.
Gary Solis, a former Marine attorney now teaching law at Georgetown University, said adultery "is almost always charged in conjunction with another offense" — in this case the charge that she lied to investigators.
At a court martial, the Marine's lawyer asserted that she was too drunk to consent to sex when she and another Marine staff sergeant checked into a motel in Temecula on March 2 of last year after an afternoon of heavy drinking. That staff sergeant, who is unmarried, testified that he was unaware that the defendant was married. He was not charged.
Testimony indicated that the incident was initially to be dealt with through the non-judicial punishment system, where a Marine faces a senior officer and takes responsibility for his or her actions, with punishment limited to possible loss of pay and a demotion.
But investigators then reported to prosecutors that the defendant had lied to them about never seeing her alleged sex partner after March 2. In truth, they said, she had tried repeatedly to convince him that "we need to get our stories straight."
When those facts were found out, a decision was made to take the case to a formal court martial, prosecutors said. The incident had come to the attention of authorities when the Marine's husband, a warrant officer, filed a complaint alleging adultery.
The lead prosecutor, Maj. Doug Hatch, told Francis that "when painted into a corner she pulled out the ultimate trump card by claiming sexual assault."
Defense attorney Capt. Rafiel Warfield countered that "the government wants you to be an accomplice to their inability" to adequately investigate an allegation of sexual assault.
Francis, after an hour of deliberation, found the Marine was not guilty of adultery but that by checking into the motel, she was guilty of "attempted adultery" even if later she was too drunk to consent to sex.
Because the verdict did not directly address her claim that she was sexually assaulted, The Times is withholding her name.
The defendant, who did not testify during the three-day trial, showed no emotion when Francis announced his verdict.
Five women attended the trial — three of them wearing sexual assault awareness ribbons. Two of the five appeared to have tears in their eyes when the verdict was announced. Court rules prohibited them from talking to reporters.