Subscribe

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine sergeant was reduced to corporal and given two months restriction to base Thursday after being found guilty of adultery and threatening to kill his wife.

At the end of the three-day special court-martial, Sgt. Michael Spence, assigned to the 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, on Camp Hansen, appeared relieved that the panel of three officers allowed him to remain in the Marine Corps. He had faced a possible maximum sentence of a bad-conduct discharge and 12 months in the brig.

According to evidence presented at the trial and restated by the prosecutor, Capt. Andrew Beckwith, during his closing argument Thursday, Spence had an affair with a Filipina while deployed to the island of Zamboanga in the Philippines last year.

After his wife discovered the affair and threatened to leave him he told her, “I will see you dead first. I will put you in a hole and I will cut your throat from ear to ear.”

Spence’s wife of eight years testified that she was still terrified of her husband and was concerned for her safety and that of her two daughters.

“I absolutely believe that he remains a threat,” she said, her voice cracking. “I cannot explain to you what it feels like to live with this man or what on a daily basis he puts me and the children through. I’ll always be afraid of Michael.”

The last years of their marriage were a pattern of threats and abuse, Beckwith said. However, the court-martial panel found him guilty of just one threat.

Still, Beckwith argued for the bad-conduct discharge and six months of confinement.

“This was prejudicial to good order and discipline and was service-discrediting,” he said, stressing that the affair was carried out while Spence was on a security detail and he could have been compromised with the threat of blackmail.

The evidence in the case included 21 photos from Spence’s computer that showed him with the woman in the Philippines.

Some of the photos were sexually explicit. One photo showed the woman had Spence’s name tattooed on her lower belly — the same tattoo he had on his left wrist.

Another photo showed him with her while he was in his uniform, a security badge affixed to his pocket.

Beckwith argued that such a Marine could not be trusted after “he violated the trust of the woman he pledged his life to.”

In Spence’s favor, however, was the testimony of two supervisors who had given him high praise for his job performance as a radio operator. A psychologist testified Spence was dealing successfully with anger management in mandated group therapy sessions.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up