Smith still in RP; SC hears case today

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The United States Embassy yesterday assured that convicted rapist Daniel Smith is still in the country as the Supreme Court is set to hear today the oral argument on the legality of the transfer of the American Marine to U.S. government custody.

“He is under the U.S. custody in another compound,” U.S. Ambassador Kirstie Kenney told reporters after the groundbreaking ceremony of the new veterans affairs facilities at the Seafront.

She said it is for the lawyers of 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Smith to argue in Court.

“The U.S. is adhering to the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Kenney said.

The SC will hear the motion filed by the lawyer of the victim known as “Nicole” to cite the government in contempt for “sneaking” Smith out of the Makati City jail in December 2006, even before a court could decide on the issue, and transferring him to the American Embassy in Manila.

On December 4, Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon sentenced Smith to 40 years of imprisonment and ordered him detained at the Makati City jail, pending an agreement between Philippine and U.S. authorities on the place of detention.

When Pozon rejected an agreement between Department of Justice officials and the U.S. Embassy to transfer Smith’s custody over to Americans authorities, the convict and his lawyers elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.

However, the CA refused to issue a temporary restraining order against the ruling of Pozon and ruled on Decemberf 18, 2006 that Smith would remain at the Makati City jail until it resolves the custody issue.

Before the CA could rule on the issue, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Kenney signed an agreement for Smith’s detention at the U.S. Embassy.

Smith was convicted in December 2006 of rape while three other Marines and their Filipino driver were acquitted of complicity.

Smith, from St. Louis, was the first American soldier convicted of wrongdoing in the Philippines since the country shut down U.S. bases here the early 1990s.

Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood and Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis, who had been accused of cheering Smith on, were freed.

Smith, who was in the country for joint training, did not deny having sex with the 23-year-old woman, but testified that it was consensual.

The court said, however, that Nicole was so intoxicated that she could not have consented to sex, pointing to testimony that Smith carried her to a van where the rape occurred on November 1, 2005.