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Two Marines stationed at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station received suspended prison sentences Friday after pleading guilty to assaulting two Japanese women.

Cpl. Joseph P. Benoit received a 14-month prison term suspended for three years, and Lance Cpl. Nathan J. Schuermann’s sentence of one year in prison was suspended for three years, according to a Yamaguchi District Court official.

Benoit and Schuermann, of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to bodily assault for attacking two 22-year-old Hiroshima women visiting in Iwakuni city on April 12, 2003.

According to the prosecutor’s indictment, Benoit, 22, punched one of the women in the head, knocking her to the ground; he then climbed on top of her and grabbed her neck. Schuermann, 22, knocked the other woman to the ground, grabbed her hair and twice smashed her head into the ground.

Decisions about their future as U.S. Marines have yet to be made, Capt. Stewart Upton, a base spokesman, said late Friday afternoon.

“Their status will be determined by how these convictions are reflected upon in the official records of their capacity as U.S. Marines,” he said. “However, we do not tolerate gratuitous violence of any type. Such behavior is counter to the high standards, good order and discipline required of members in the U.S. Marine Corps.”

During the trial sessions, defense attorneys stated that the Marines regret the incident, and both paid money to the women to express regret, as is customary in Japan.

During the first trial session in February, defense attorneys presented petitions written by the two women asking the court for mercy toward their assailants.

— Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.


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