Pacific edition, Friday, March 15, 2008

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The second U.S. soldier accused of engaging in a sexual encounter that was recorded on video was found guilty in a general court-martial Thursday afternoon.

An all-male, five-member court-martial board found Pfc. Michael McPhatter, of the 18th Medical Command, not guilty of conspiracy to commit indecent acts and indecent assault in connection with an Aug. 9 barracks-room incident. He was, however, found guilty of a lesser charge of committing indecent acts with another.

The panel reduced him to E-1, put him on restriction for 30 days and hard labor without confinement for three months, and ordered him to forfeit $500 a month for three months. McPhatter faced a maximum possible sentence of dishonorable discharge, five years of confinement, reduction to E-1 and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

On Tuesday, Spc. Sean Welch, also with the medical command, was demoted to E-1 and sentenced to two months of restriction and three months of hard labor without confinement after agreeing to plead guilty to committing an indecent act, conspiracy to commit an indecent act and falsifying an official statement.

According to court testimony in both cases, Welch and a female soldier were engaged in a consensual sexual activity in his barracks room when McPhatter and Welch’s roommate, Cpl. Lee Woo-sang, a Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army, entered the room.

Lee used his cell phone’s video camera to record the couple as they were involved in what Welch on Tuesday called “heavy petting, fondling and moving toward … not quite intercourse, but playing.”

Lee admitted in court Thursday that he also touched the woman’s leg while she lay on her stomach. While narrating the videotape for the prosecution, Lee explained that it showed McPhatter fondling the woman at one point.

During brief testimony Thursday, the woman said she had been drinking heavily that night and didn’t remember the incident. She testified Tuesday she learned about the video a few days after the incident when another soldier told her about it.

During an unsworn statement Thursday, McPhatter apologized to the woman for not stopping what was happening when he walked into the room and “for the pain” he caused her.

Prosecutor Capt. Cesar Casal asked the jury for a sentence of 30 days of confinement, reduction to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge, saying that America expects more of its soldiers.

He asked the jury what would have happened had that video gone out on the Internet.

“Thank God it didn’t,” he said.

But defense attorney Capt. Patrick Davis said his client was just a “young man who made a dumb mistake.”

A spokesman for the South Korean army said Lee was found guilty by a military disciplinary committee of committing a “breach of military discipline” and sentenced to 10 days in a military jail. He finished serving his time in August and was returned to his unit to complete his military obligation.

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