A U.S. Marine has been convicted of killing a transgender Filipino last year in a motel room in the Philippines - a case that has ignited an uproar in the region and reintroduced a debate over U.S. military presence.
A Philippine court on Tuesday found Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, 20, guilty of homicide for choking and then drowning Jennifer Laude, 26, in a toilet bowl in a motel bathroom. Authorities said Pemberton, who was on shore leave in Olongapo City during joint military exercises, killed Laude one night in October 2014 after he discovered that she was transgender.
"It's murder," prosecutor Emily de los Santos said last year, according to the Associated Press. "It was aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty."
But the judge in the case said Laude's death was not murder because it did not involve treachery, superior force, and cruelty - elements needed to prove murder under Philippine law. Pemberton was convicted of homicide, sentenced to six to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay about $98,000 in damages to Laude's family, court clerk Gerry Gruspe told the Associated Press.
Pemberton was credited with time served, Gruspe said.
Pemberton, an antitank missile operator from New Bedford, Mass., was among 3,500 U.S. sailors and Marines visiting the Philippines for joint military exercises.
Philippine police said Pemberton met Laude and another transgender woman named Barbie during a break on Oct. 11, 2014, when he went with other Marines to a bar in Olongapo. He later went with the two transgender women to a motel.
Witnesses said in court that Laude, also known as Jeffrey Laude, was a sex worker, according to the Associated Press.
The judge, Roline Ginez-Jabalde, said Pemberton became confused when he discovered out that "the woman he hired for sex was male," according to Bloomberg News.
Pemberton claimed Laude was alive when he left the motel room.