A Philippine court found a US marine guilty Tuesday in the killing of a transgender Filipina last year, in a case that led to activists criticising the presence of American servicemen in the archipelago.
The Olongapo City Regional Court found Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, 20, guilty of homicide, sentencing him to between six and 12 years in prison, the Inquirer reported.
In August, Pemberton admitted to choking Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, in “self defense” at a hotel after discovering that she was not biologically female on Oct. 11, 2014. He said he had then dragged Laude to the bathroom in hopes of reviving the victim with water, only to discover there was none running.
Pemberton had been charged with murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
However, the court ruled Tuesday that Pemberton would not be convicted of murder as the prosecution could not establish that there had been “aggravating circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength.”
It said that the mitigating circumstance of “passion and obfuscation,” outlined in the Revised Penal Code’s Article 13 (6), could apply to Pemberton’s actions.
The case of Laude’s killing has led to criticism among some Filipinos over US security forces’ roles in the country, with Pemberton’s incarceration at the US-run facility raising complaints that the US is scorning Philippine sovereignty under the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The deal allows the US to retain custody of accused personnel during judicial proceedings.
The US has maintained a heavy military presence in the Philippines since its former colony gained independence in 1946. The number of troops is expected to increase as US President Barack Obama attempts to counter China’s influence in the region.