Coast Guard Cadet Acquitted of Rape Charge, Found Guilty on Lesser Charges

A Coast Guard Academy cadet was acquitted of rape but convicted of several other crimes Tuesday in the first court-martial of a student in the school's 130-year history.

After about eight hours of deliberations, the jury found Webster M. Smith, 23, of Houston, guilty of indecent assault, extortion, sodomy, failure to obey an order and absent without leave.

Smith was stoic as the verdict was read, but afterward, with his parents and lawyers by his side, he wept. One of his accusers quickly left the courtroom after the verdict was read, also crying.

The small courtroom was packed with some of the accusers, Coast Guard Academy employees and Smith's friends and relatives.

Smith's lawyer, Merle Smith, who is no relation, said he will argue for little or no jail time at Wednesday's sentencing. The cadet faces up to 13 1/2 years in prison.

"There is certainly a degree of disappointment, but most certainly we feel that the court was listening and clearly heard what we had to say," Merle Smith said.

The most serious charge against Smith was the rape allegation. He was accused of raping his on-again, off-again girlfriend after a night of heavy drinking last summer in Annapolis, Md. He testified that the sex was consensual.

The indecent assault, sodomy and extortion charges stemmed from one of three other female cadets who made accusations against Smith. That cadet testified Smith came to her room at night, slipped into bed with her and slid his hand down her underwear. Smith said the incident was consensual.

The same female cadet said that afterward, Smith performed oral sex on her, and she on him. Smith said both acts were consensual. She also said she did not resist his advances because she relied on him to keep a secret that, if revealed, could have jeopardized her Coast Guard career.

Prosecutors said Smith held their encounters over her for sexual favors. Smith and the woman agreed that the secret was never mentioned during the incidents.