Convicted Marine's accuser changes her story
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Philippines rape conviction of an Okinawa-based Marine has taken a bizarre twist.
The woman, now 25 and known publicly only as “Nicole,” changed her story last week and now says she is not sure that Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith raped her in a van in Subic Bay more than three years ago.
In a sworn statement notarized March 12 and submitted to the Philippines Court of Appeals on Tuesday, she said she may have had too much to drink with Smith at a bar called the Neptune Club the evening of Nov. 1, 2005.
“My conscience continues to bother me, realizing that I may have in fact been so friendly and intimate with Daniel Smith at the Neptune Club that he was led to believe that I was amenable to having sex or that we simply got carried away,” she said in a five-page statement posted on several media Web sites.
Court of Appeals officials could not provide Stars and Stripes a copy of the statement Wednesday but confirmed by telephone that it was accurate and released by them.
Smith, now 23, was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in a Philippines prison. He is being held on the U.S. Embassy compound in Manila pending his appeal and negotiations between U.S. and Philippines officials concerning the country’s Supreme Court ruling in February that holding Smith at the embassy was a violation of the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement.
“I would rather risk public outrage than do nothing to help the court in ensuring that justice was served,” Nicole said in the statement.
Smith has always contended the sex was consensual.
It remained unclear Wednesday what effect Nicole’s statement would have on Smith’s appeal.
Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez, the country’s highest-ranking jurist, said Wednesday that such reversals are “rarely accepted” as new evidence in the appeals process, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.
However, Gonzales acknowledged that Smith’s lawyers “can ask the Court of Appeals to declare a mistrial and then move for a dismissal of the case on the grounds that the evidence is not strong.”
The U.S. Embassy in Manila had no comment on the recent developments.
Nicole said she remembered little of what occurred inside the vehicle, but thought the rape story grew from her embarrassment upon gaining consciousness after being carried out of the van.
“I was so confused and the first thing that entered my mind was how would my mother and boyfriend react if they learn that I was seen with Daniel Smith and that a condom was seen on my pants after Daniel Smith left the van?” according to her statement. “I was scared of losing not only my American boyfriend but the chance of living in the United States.”
On the same day she changed her story, Nicole also fired her attorney, Evalyn Ursua.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for Ursua told Stripes that Nicole’s mother told Ursua that the family was tired of the case and “there is no justice in the Philippines.”
The spokesman said Ursua suspected “parties in the Smith camp” had a hand in Nicole’s decision.
According to media reports Tuesday in Manila, Ursua said the lawyer who notarized Nicole’s statement is from the same law firm that represents Smith. Ursua said the statement was signed the same day she accepted 100,000 pesos (about $2,068) from Smith, which was ordered by the trial court in December 2006 as compensatory damages, according to the reports.
“So many irregular things have happened in this case,” Ursua was quoted in press reports. “The victim is no longer Nicole, but the integrity of the court process and the rule of law.”
Nicole was unavailable for comment Wednesday. The Philippines media reported that she moved recently to the U.S. to live with her boyfriend.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted her mother as stating Nicole was not coerced into changing her story, adding that she did so because “she decided to move on” for her sake and the family’s.
“I expect many sectors to question my motives in executing this statement more than three years after the incident,” Nicole said in her statement. “However ... thinking over and over again how I may have conducted myself at the Neptune Club, I can’t help but entertain doubts on whether the sequence of events in Subic last November 2005 really occurred the way the court found them to have happened.”