2 US Sailors Request Trial in Prostitution Scandal


WASHINGTON -- Two Navy sailors have rejected administrative punishments for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Colombia last year in a scandal that engulfed members of the military and Secret Service, and both asked for trials by court-martial.

The sailors were the last to be charged in the embarrassing episode that erupted around the time of a visit by President Barack Obama to Cartagena.

Of the dozen U.S. military members initially implicated, seven soldiers and two Marines received administrative punishments for what was described as misconduct and one Air Force member was administratively reprimanded for poor judgment.

Three of the soldiers declined the administrative punishments and were found guilty in nonjudicial punishment hearings of having relations with a prostitute. All three had to forfeit their base salary for two months, along with other punishments.

In a statement Friday, U.S. Southern Command said the cases against the two sailors may take up to three months to resolve.

In the military, nonjudicial or administrative punishments can take a variety of forms, from docking service members' pay or confining them to quarters to assigning them additional duties for a certain length of time. In some cases, it can be a letter of reprimand in their files, but in other cases administrative punishments can be career-ending, or delay or prevent any future promotions.

The service members were investigated for bringing apparent prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena last April, according to the military's investigation of the matter. The investigator's report, released in early August, described the misconduct as consisting "almost exclusively of patronizing prostitutes and adultery."

The scandal came to light after a public dispute over payment between a Secret Service agent and a prostitute at a Cartagena hotel spilled over into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. The Secret Service and the military were in the Colombian coastal resort to prepare for Obama's participation in a Latin American summit. Eight Secret Service employees implicated in the incident were ousted and three were cleared of serious misconduct; at least two employees were fighting to get their jobs back.

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