Nine U.S. military service members involved in April’s prostitution scandal in Cartagena received administrative punishments but will not face criminal charges, according to army officials.
Of the 12 soldiers investigated by the U.S. Southern Command following the sex scandal, at least 7 members of the army and 2 marine officers were sanctioned. While details of administrative punishments in the U.S. military are not typically released publicly, they can range from pay deduction, rank demotion and can in some cases, be career-ending, according to the Associated Press. Three of the military personnel rejected their non-judicial punishments, instead requesting a courts martial, meaning they will have a public trial to contest the decision.
Two other cases are currently being reviewed by the military. Another soldier was freed of any charges, receiving only a letter of reprimand.
In April, just days ahead of Barack Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, a popular tourist destination on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, a number of Secret Service agents were sent home amid accusations of a sex scandal. The incident came to light when an argument took place between a Secret Service agent and a prostitute over how much money she was owed, eventually leading to the discovery that other security personnel had been with prostitutes.
In total, eight Secret Service members were forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two are trying to get their jobs back.
The scandal caused embarrassment for U.S. authorities, who have enjoyed strong diplomatic ties with Colombia over the past decade.
U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, expressed regret over the scandal in April. “[We] expect that our people behave according to the highest standards of conduct(…) That obviously didn’t happen here,” he said.
The scandal also provoked indignation from prominent Colombians, who resented the negative attention Cartagena had received in the press.
Shortly after the incident, Colombia’s foreign minister, Maria Angela Holguin, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of U.S. agents. “I was very sad because the blame has been placed on Cartagena, a city that lives on tourism, a city that is so important in this area. We have become the culprit, the culprit is the Secret Service.”