MANILA, Philippines – A witness at a rape trial of four U.S. Marines testified Friday that he saw one of the servicemen carry a drunk Filipino woman from a bar to a van where the alleged sex crime occurred.
The rape charges are punishable by up to 40 years in jail. The Marines have refused to answer the charges, prompting the judge to enter a not guilty plea for them.
A security guard at the Neptune bar, at the former U.S. Subic Bay Naval base near Olongapo city, west of Manila, told the court that on the night of Nov. 1, he saw the woman — identified only as "Nicole" — looking drunk and unconscious and being carried on the back of a serviceman.
Judge Benjamin Pozon and prosecution lawyer Hazel Valdez asked the witness, Gerald Muyot, to point out the man he saw carrying the woman.
Muyot approached and tapped the shoulder of a man who identified himself to the court as Daniel Smith.
"She's with me and we gotta go now," Muyot quoted Smith as saying as he left the bar with the woman.
Muyot said they boarded a van parked outside the bar and he saw Smith lower down the woman inside the vehicle.
He said the next time he saw the woman was several hours later when she returned to the bar, accompanied by police, to look for the Americans.
"She said they did something bad to her that's why she wants to find them," Muyot said.
Prosecutors allege Lance Cpl. Smith raped the woman while the others — Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier — members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force stationed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa — cheered him on.
Friday's hearing was the first time the servicemen faced the woman in court.
Watching the proceedings two rows behind the Americans, the woman at one point broke down in tears and was comforted by relatives and members of women's groups.
Lawyers for the American defendants said their clients would be present in court for the rest of the hearings, scheduled four times a week.
The Marines had finished counterterrorism maneuvers with Filipino troops when the alleged rape occurred.
The U.S. Embassy has refused to turn them over to Philippine police, citing a provision under the Visiting Forces Agreement that lets U.S. authorities hold American servicemen facing a criminal case.
U.S. officials have refused to disclose their hometowns.
The proceedings will resume on Monday.
Prosecution lawyer Evalyn Ursua said U.S. Navy investigators are expected to testify after defense lawyers finish cross-examining Muyot.