S. Marine convicted of killing a Filipino transgender woman was deported back to the US after receiving a pardon from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
An anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was one of the thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in joint exercises in the Philippines in 2014.
After the exercises, Pemberton and a few other Marines met the victim, Jennifer Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo City, just outside the former US Navy base known as Subic Bay.
Witnesses saw Pemberton and Laude checked in a motel room, where the latter was found dead with her head slumped in a toilet bowl.
One of the witnesses came forward and told investigators that Pemberton choked Laude after discovering she was transgender.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide in December 2015, with the judge citing that factors such as cruelty and treachery had not been proven at the time.
In his six years of confinement, Pemberton spent “much time contemplating the many errors” he had done the night of Laude’s death.
“He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret,” said Pemberton on a statement issued by his lawyer, Rowena Garcia-Flores.
Philippine immigration officers and American personnel escorted Pemberton from his cell in Manila to the airport, where he boarded a military aircraft.
Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that he was put on an immigration blacklist and will be banned from returning to the country.
The U.S. Embassy said, “All legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law,” and that, “Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts.”
Duterte, who has long been a vocal critic of U.S. security policies, granted an “absolute and unconditional pardon” to Pemberton citing that he was not treated fairly after his early release that he may have deserved.
The President’s decision drew the ire of the left-wing and LGBTQ groups, and sparked debate whether the Marine can be covered by a Philippine law that grants shorter jail terms to ordinary prisoners for good conduct.