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Australian sailors plead guilty for beating U.S. student
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08:46, March 11, 2008

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Two Australian military sailors on Monday pleaded guilty to felony assault charges for beating an American student in a dispute.

The two sailors beat the law student last year while on leave in San Diego, about 128 kilometers south of Los Angeles in a dispute over politics and football.

Philip Graeme Ferres, 26, and Kolis Barba, 25, will be sentenced to 90 days in custody at a work-furlough facility if there are no incidents between now and sentencing on April 8, said their attorney, Matthew J. O'Connor.

"This is the best way they could resolve it now," O'Connor said.

The Australian Navy has taken no official position on what will happen to the defendants, their attorney said.

"Their careers may be completely jeopardized by it," O'Connor said. "I don't think they got off lightly.''

Both defendants pleaded guilty to assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury and admitted allegations that they inflicted great bodily injury on the victim.

In return for their pleas, battery charges were dismissed, as well as a possession of cocaine charge against Ferris.

If convicted of all charges, the defendants could have been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Ferres and Barba were on leave from the HMAS Sydney on Nov. 22 when they went to a downtown bar, where they met the 28-year-old victim, Jeffrey Wilkinson.

Wilkinson testified during a Jan. 24 preliminary hearing that after meeting the defendants at Moose McGillycuddy's, they went to a friend's apartment in Golden Hill to continue partying, but he got into a heated argument with Barba -- a professional Australian rules football player -- over which football is better, American or Australian.

The victim said they also had argued both countries' involvement in the Middle East.

In the ensuing fight, the two sailors beat the victim, who suffered a broken nose, broken rib and had 30 stitches in his face.


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