A former Marine sergeant received a suspended sentence i Howard Circuit Court yesterday for performing a sexual act with a 17-year-old Columbia girl.
James Alexander Page Jr., 27, of Greenbelt, was convicted of performing a perverted sexual practice after having sex with the girl in a car at a parking lot on Aug. 19.
"If I had known it was a crime, I would never have done it," Page told Judge James Dudley during his sentencing hearing.
Judge Dudley sentenced Page to one year in prison, but suspended the entire term. The judge also ordered Page to complete a two-year probation. One year of the probation will be supervised.
A jury found Page not guilty of 22 other charges, including five counts of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offenses, following a trial in March.
Page is jailed at the county Detention Center, pending a June 7 trial on charges of solicitation to commit murder and obstruction of justice.
He is accused of offering $3,000 to an undercover state police trooper to kill the girl and her boyfriend to prevent them from testifying against him.
At yesterday's sentencing hearing, Assistant Public Defender Louis Willemin asked Judge Dudley to give his client a lenient sentence, preferably probation without supervision, because of his "impeccable background."
"He has paid an extremely heavy price for his actions in this case," Mr. Willemin said.
Page, a North Carolina native, served in the Marines for seven years. His enlistment expired while awaiting trial, but he plans to re-enlist, Mr. Willemin said.
Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha asked Judge Dudley to give Page the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
"It was a violent act done against the will of [the victim]," Mr. Murtha argued.
Judge Dudley denied Mr. Willemin's request to give Page a new trial. Mr. Willemin had sought a new trial on grounds Judge Dudley did not instruct the jury to consider if the encounter between Page and the victim occurred in a private place and with the girl's consent.
The defense attorney noted that the incident occurred at "the cave," a parking lot at a Columbia industrial park used as a teen hangout.
Under Maryland law, the sex act is a crime if it occurred in a public place and without consent, Mr. Willemin said.
Judge Dudley said he didn't give the instruction because it was a moot point by the time testimony concluded. He noted that Mr. Willemin acknowledged during his opening statement that Page had engaged in the act with the girl.
Mr. Willemin argued during the trial that the girl made up the other allegations to explain why she missed curfew.
At the trial, the girl testified she met Page at a party and he agreed to drive her home as her curfew approached. The girl testified that Page took her to the industrial park, where he forced her to have intercourse, perform sex acts and threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't comply.