SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Marine was freed from confinement after a charge of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl was dropped under a plea agreement with military prosecutors that was announced Tuesday.

Avery L. Rosario left confinement at Camp Pendleton last week, U.S. Marine Corps officials said. He pleaded guilty to the remaining charge of breach of restriction for leaving base in a private vehicle in June 2023, the corps said in a statement Tuesday. Jocelyn Stewart, Rosario’s attorney, told NBC San Diego that the corps said the action violated a corps restriction placed on him for allegedly testing positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Rosario already served more than twice the maximum one-month confinement outlined as punishment for such cases. A special court martial on Tuesday sentenced him to time served as well as to reduction of rank, forfeiture of some pay and administrative separation.

The latter means he will leave the corps in the summer as a fired U.S. Marine but not under the cloud of a dishonorable discharge. The separation will likely happen in the next 90 to 120 days, the corps said in its statement.

“There will be no further legal action taken within the military justice system,” the branch said Wednesday. 

Rosario worked out the deal with military prosecutors on April 2 during a general court martial, leaving one charge remaining: the breach of restriction allegation, which was referred to the special court martial on Tuesday, the corps said. The sentence was also meted out Tuesday, according to the corps.

The charge of sexual assault on a minor was withdrawn. “PFC Rosario was accused of multiple counts of one sexual assault charge, all of which were dismissed,” the military branch said via email Wednesday. 

Stewart said the commanding general “withdrew and dismissed” the charge because she discovered that prosecutors held back “exculpatory evidence” related to her own team’s discovery of the girl’s multiple other liaisons with men where she presented herself as being of legal age. That evidence was apparent in direct messages from the girl’s Tinder and Instagram accounts, Stewart added.

As a result, Stewart said, Rosario was considering suing the Marines for false imprisonment. “He intends to avail himself of all potential civil remedies for his incarceration,” Stewart said. 

The U.S. Marine Corps was contacted for comment on the allegation that prosecutors withheld evidence that the girl had presented herself to men as being of legal age. The corps did not directly comment on that allegation, but replied in an email: “The convening authority approved the plea deal agreement after consultation with the minor and her family through her lawyer.”

NBC News could not reach the girl’s family for comment Tuesday night. A family member of the teen’s told NBC San Diego after the hearing that they did not wish to make a statement.

Rosario was detained after a 14-year-old San Diego County girl was found at his barracks on-base, which is at the north end of the county, on June 28.

The girl’s grandmother had reported her missing on June 13 after she ran away and was gone for four days, authorities said.

Rosario, through his lawyers, said he met her on Tinder, a platform for adult dating and sexual liaisons. There, Rosario’s defense said, she represented herself as 21.

Rosario’s team said they had sex —  described as consensual — at his barracks in Camp Pendleton, which is under federal jurisdiction, Stewart said. As such, she noted, it is “highly unlikely” that her client will face state charges. 

It is also doubtful that Rosario will face federal charges, Stewart added. “It’s highly unlikely. There has been no indication that the United States Attorney would pursue anything,” she said.

Cassaundra Perez, the girl’s aunt, previously expressed frustration with what she described as a lack of transparency on the part of U.S. Marine Corps officials and members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigating the case.

After the discovery on-base — she was found asleep in bed at the barracks — the girl was released to the custody of her grandmother.


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