Coast Guard Cadet Acquitted of Rape, Asks for Leniency on Lesser Charges

A Coast Guard Academy cadet was acquitted of rape charges but convicted on other sex-related charges in the institution's first-ever court-martial of a student.

Webster M. Smith was expected to ask the military jury for leniency at a sentencing hearing scheduled Wednesday.

Jurors on Tuesday deliberated eight hours before finding Smith, 23, of Houston, guilty of indecent assault, extortion, sodomy, failure to obey an order and absent without leave.

Smith, the first student in the school's 130-year history to be court-martialed, was stoic as the verdict was read, but wept afterward with his parents and lawyers by his side.

"This is an extraordinarily emotional time for him right now," said his attorney, Merle Smith, who is not related to the cadet. "There's so much emotion right now, both relief and also disappointment."

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Smith faces up to 13 1/2 years in prison, but his attorney said he would argue for little or no jail time.

Prosecutors, who declined to comment after the verdict, said Smith was a predator who took advantage of women when they were vulnerable.

The allegations were brought by four female cadets. The jury acquitted him of sexual misconduct charges involving three of the female cadets.

The rape case involved Smith's on-again, off-again girlfriend, who said she drank two bottles of wine at a party in Annapolis, Md., last summer and can't remember anything. She said she learned the next morning that they had had sex.

Smith testified Monday that the sex was consensual. He said the woman had been drinking but wasn't drunk when they had sex in his car outside a bar. Prosecutors say the sex happened much later that night, when she was passed out.

The indecent assault, extortion and sodomy charges stemmed from allegations by one of the other women.

That woman described a night in which she and Smith had a series of sexual encounters in her dorm room. The woman said she never protested because she was relying on Smith to keep a secret involving a crime that could have jeopardized her career.

Prosecutors said Smith held that secret over her, extorting her for sexual favors.

Smith said he never mentioned the secret and that the two had consensual oral sex.

Smith was not allowed to graduate with his class this spring and almost certainly will be kicked out of school and the Coast Guard.