American convict Pemberton to get early release for good conduct

Joseph Scott Pemberton and victim Jennifer Laude. Photo: PNP/ Laude’s FB
Joseph Scott Pemberton and victim Jennifer Laude. Photo: PNP/ Laude’s FB

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted for strangling to death transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014, will soon walk away from prison after an Olongapo City court has granted his early release.

In an order dated Sept. 1 and made public yesterday, Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde declared that the former United States Marine has been in prison for a total of 10 years, one month, and 10 days due allegedly to good behavior. In reality, Pemberton has been detained for five years and eight months, but his behavior behind bars convinced the court to grant him an additional 1,548 days or more than four years. The former soldier was originally convicted to 12 years in prison, but this was shortened to 10 years.

Read: Pemberton admits he choked Jennifer Laude

The deduction of Pemberton’s term was based on Republic Act No. 10592, or the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance law which subtracts as much as 30 days each month if an inmate displays good behavior while in prison. The Laude family’s lawyer, Virginia Suarez, last week opposed Pemberton’s early release, telling the Philippine Star that he does not deserve to be freed because his behavior “was never put to the test” while staying “comfortably in his specially made cell” in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who once worked as Laude’s lawyer, decried the Olongapo court’s decision, saying that his former client’s death “personifies the death of Philippine sovereignty.”

The Bureau of Corrections has confirmed that it has received the court’s order, which will undergo the usual process of validation before Pemberton is freed.

Pemberton has paid the Laude family in civil damages just last week for only PHP4.6 million (US$94,785).

Read: Convicted US soldier Pemberton withdraws court appeal over killing of Filipino transwoman

Laude was found dead in October 2014 in an Olongapo City motel room after seeing Pemberton, who admitted that he strangled her after learning that she was a transgender. However, he insisted that he acted out of self-defense and that he felt like he was “being raped by another man” when he discovered that Laude had a penis. After choking Laude until she became unconscious, he dragged her to the bathroom and poured water on her to revive her.

Pemberton was in Olongapo to participate in military exercises organized by the U.S. and Philippine governments. Activists have decried what they alleged was the preferential treatment given to Pemberton, who, as a soldier, was protected by the Visiting Forces Agreement which allowed the U.S. to maintain jurisdiction over American servicemen stationed in the Philippines. The agreement was supposed to be canceled by the Duterte government, but it announced in June that it was postponing its termination.

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