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Sex crimes charges dropped against Marine after missing teen found in barracks

Camp Pendleton.(UT File Photo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

A junior Marine accused of having sex with a missing 14-year-old girl found in his Camp Pendleton barracks room last summer no longer faces sex crimes charges, military officials said this week.

Under an agreement offered by his defense attorney, Pfc. Avery Rosario pleaded guilty Tuesday to breach of restriction, according to a statement issued by I Marine Expeditionary Force. Officials said “select charges” he had faced were dismissed.

In return, Rosario was sentenced to time served and agreed to be administratively separated from the Marine Corps, officials said.

Before the plea deal, Rosario faced charges alleging sexual assault and violating liberty restrictions — leaving base without permission. Prosecutors alleged the incidents occurred June 27. The girl was found in Rosario’s room the following morning.

Rosario — who thought the girl was an adult, his attorney said — was arrested that day. The girl was returned to her family.

The decision by the convening authority in the case — Brig. Gen. Andrew Niebel, the commanding general of 1st Marine Logistics Group — to dismiss allegations that Rosario sexually assaulted a minor came after consultation with the girl and her family through the girl’s attorney, a military spokesperson said.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, the teen’s grandmother had reported her as a runaway on June 13, four days after she disappeared. The grandmother told authorities the teen had run away before but usually quickly returned.

Military officials were mostly mum about details of the case. And at Rosario’s preliminary hearing, also called an Article 32 hearing, in a Camp Pendleton courtroom in August, the prosecution presented no witnesses, opting to make its case — and its arguments — in writing to the colonel running the hearing.

But Rosario’s defense attorney laid out her client’s case in court. Capt. Katherine Malcolm said Rosario met the teen on the Tinder dating app, that the teen had initiated the conversation with Rosario, and that her client had “a genuine belief” that she was 21 years old. Rosario’s friends told investigators they also thought she was in her early 20s.

Malcolm noted that the girl’s profile stated: “I know I look young, but hey when I’m 30, I’ll look like I’m in my 20s.”

According to the defense, the girl told investigators she had been trafficked by a man named Hector for the last year and said Hector was “pulling the strings.”

The story of the missing teenager turning up on the military base drew attention when the girl’s aunt posted a TikTok video raising questions and alleging the girl had been trafficked.

It remains unclear how investigators followed up on the trafficking allegation, or any conclusions they may have made.


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