Filipino appeals court tosses rape conviction
Kyodo News Service
Posted : Thursday Apr 23, 2009 6:33:28 EDT

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine appeals court overturned Thursday the conviction of a U.S. Marine who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a Filipino woman in the Philippines in 2005, saying no rape took place and that what actually happened was a ”romantic episode” between the two.

The court also ordered the immediate release of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who is being detained inside the U.S. Embassy compound in Manila.

In a 71-page decision, the court said it did not find Smith guilty of rape.

“What we see was the unfolding of a spontaneous, unplanned romantic episode with both parties carried away by their passions and stirred up the urgency of the moment caused probably by alcoholic drinks they took, only to be rudely interrupted when the van suddenly stopped to pick up some passengers,” the court said.

The court said that a careful study of the evidence “does not convince the prudent mind about the moral certainty of the guilt of the accused,” referring to Smith.

“The moment of parting came and the Marines had to rush to the ship,” said the court, adding that, “in that situation, reality dawned on [the accuser] — what her audacity and reckless abandon, flirting with Smith and leading him on, brought upon her.”

Moreover, the court said that the accuser’s claim that she was unconscious “rings hollow, delusive and untrue.”

“Smith is ordered released immediately unless held for other lawful cause,” it said.

The acquittal came a few weeks after the woman recanted, saying the sex was consensual.

The woman’s altered story supports Smith’s claim that he indeed had sex with the victim but stressed it was consensual.

But the court said it was not influenced by the victim’s decision to recant her statement.

The mother of the woman said her daughter decided to change her story and left the country.

The acquittal also came amid clamor for Smith to be turned over to Philippine authorities.

A lower court sentenced Smith, who was 21 at the time, in December 2006 for the rape of the woman in a van at a former U.S. Navy base in Subic, northwest of Manila.

Lower court Judge Benjamin Pozon at the time said the woman was so drunk she could have not consented to sex.

Pozon also ordered Smith to pay the defendant 100,000 pesos ($2,052) in damages.

Three other defendants — Lance Cpls. Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier — were all cleared of rape.

The defendants were stationed in Okinawa, Japan, but were in the Philippines to take part in a military exercise.

The case stirred strong protests from women’s and left-wing groups in the Philippines and strained ties with the United States.

The rape charges also sparked a strong debate on whether an existing Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines should continue or be abrogated.

The U.S. Embassy has yet to issue a statement on the ruling.