CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A sailor currently assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit command element was sentenced to 30 days in jail and reduction in rank to E-2 for making false official statements during a sexual assault investigation on Camp Hansen in August 2005.

But a six-member panel that deliberated for three hours also found Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel Salas not guilty of the more serious charges of sodomy and indecent assault.

The maximum punishment Salas could have faced for his lone conviction was five years confinement, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges at his general court-martial, which began here Thursday.

Salas was accused of leading a female sailor to a softball field on Camp Hansen in the early morning hours of Aug. 28, 2005, and forcibly assaulting her. The woman testified she blacked out several times during the incident and could not recall all events.

Salas’ defense counsel, Maj. Jeffrey Munoz, argued that the government prosecutors failed to provide any evidence and that some testimony they provided from various witnesses didn’t match.

“It’s a classic he-said, she-said,” Munoz told the panel. “That’s 50/50 … that’s a chance. The military judge told you you must find proof beyond a reasonable doubt. ... Fifty/fifty is a chance, not beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutor Capt. Timothy Taylor argued that the government proved Salas’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He said Salas admitted to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent that he left The Palms enlisted club on Camp Hansen with the woman on the night in question and admitted to going to the softball field. In addition, Taylor argued, the testimony of three witnesses who saw the woman arrive at her barracks visibly shaken after the incident proved she didn’t make the story up.

Munoz asked the panel to order no further punishment for Salas. He said being found guilty of making false statements is a federal felony and will stay with Salas for the rest of his life.

“That’s punishment enough,” the lawyer said.

When the verdict was read, the woman sat in the courtroom, holding a friend’s hand. After she heard the verdict, several tears slowly rolled down her cheeks.

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