Pemberton sentenced to 6-12 years in slay of transgender in PHL
OLONGAPO CITY, Zambales, Dec 1 (Mabuhay) – The Olongapo City court on Tuesday found US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide for the October 2014 death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
Pemberton was sentenced to 6-12 years imprisonment and ordered to pay the Laude family at least P4.5 million for various damages. The court also ordered his temporary detention at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.
“All circumstances form a chain that leads to reasonable conclusion that Pemberton is responsible for the killing of Laude,” Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 said in her decision as read by Clerk of Court Gerry Gruspe.
The prosecution has sought for a murder conviction of Pemberton.
The decision, which was read for over three hours with two short breaks, marked the culmination of nearly nine months of marathon trial that started in March 2015.
Under the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the US, the local courts have one year to complete judicial proceedings against a US soldier accused of a crime in the Philippines. After that period, he/she shall be relieved of any obligation.
Laude was found dead, with his head inside a toilet bowl, in the bathroom of a Celzone Lodge room in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014.
The victim was last seen with Pemberton entering the room with another person after drinking at a nearby bar where they met. The other person, Laude’s friend Mark Clarence “Barbie” Gelviro, later left the two alone.
During the trial, Pemberton admitted choking and dragging Laude, who offered him sex for a fee, to the bathroom during a fight, but said the victim was still breathing when he left the room. He said he did not know at first that Laude was not biologically female.
Pemberton later admitted to his superiors and colleagues that he may have killed a “he-she.”
In her decision, Jabalde said Pemberton’s admission is admissible as evidence.
Forensic expert Raquel Fortun, in her testimony during the trial, said Laude died from strangulation and not from drowning as what was reflected in the autopsy report.
Following the incident, Pemberton was detained first on the US Navy ship where he was assigned as a participant in regular US-Philippine military exercises. He was then moved to a US facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.
The Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office, in a resolution dated December 15, 2014, found probable cause to charge him with murder.
However, court proceedings were suspended for two months, after Pemberton asked the Department of Justice to dismiss the murder charge.
The DOJ denied the motion on January 27, 2015, then affirmed its decision in another resolution on February 20.
The court entered a not guilty plea for Pemberton after he refused to enter any in connection with the killing.
The trial officially began on March 16. Among those who took the stand were Fortun, Gelviro, Pemberton’s fellow officers, and his mother Lisa, who described him as a compassionate and God-fearing person.
The case has stirred debate over the presence of American soldiers on Philippine soil after Filipino senators voted two decades ago to kick out US bases in the country because of social issues, such as crimes committed by servicemen. (MNS)