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Marine Cleared of Negligent Homicide Charge

February 1, 2006

QUANTICO, Va. (AP) _ A U.S. Marine was acquitted of negligent homicide Tuesday at a court martial in connection with a car accident that killed a Romanian rock star.

Staff Sgt. Christopher R. VanGoethem, 32, was cleared of the most serious charges in the death of Teofil Peter of the band Compact. He was found guilty of making a false official statement to investigators and obstructing justice, the Marine Corps said.

The Michigan native was sentenced to receive a letter of reprimand. He could have received as many as 10 years’ confinement and been dishonorably discharged, Gunnery Sgt. Sean Wright said.

VanGoethem, who worked as an embassy guard and has diplomatic immunity from prosecution in Romania, left the country immediately after the December 2004 accident in Bucharest.

His departure infuriated Romanians who held rallies to demand that U.S. authorities send him back for prosecution. Former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase had appealed to President Bush to waive the Marine’s immunity.

Peter, a 50-year-old bass player, died after his taxi was hit by an embassy car allegedly driven by the Marine. VanGoethem allegedly failed to yield at an intersection and hit the taxi, police said. A breath test showed the Marine had been drinking, police said.

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