LOUISVILLE, JULY 20 -- Four years in prison have left Pvt. Lindsey Scott with a barrel chest, thick biceps and a quiet determination that the system that condemned him will ultimately exonerate him.
The 31-year-old black Marine, who returned here to a hero's welcome after his release last week, said he feels no ill will toward the Marine Corps that prosecuted him in 1983, and that may retry him this year, for a crime he insists he did not commit.
In a two-hour interview today, Scott blamed only his original civilian attorney, whose failure to represent him adequately at his court-martial was the basis for the appeals court decision July 6 to overturn his conviction on charges that he raped, sodomized, abducted and attempted to murder a white woman at the Quantico Marine Corps base on the southern border of Prince William County.
But Scott's comments were restrained even about the attorney, Ervan E. Kuhnke Jr. of Dumfries. "Things like that happen," he said.
In conversation, Scott is more poised, more self-contained and more reserved about himself, his case and his future than he was two years ago.
He expressed confidence in the military justice system and said he is "grateful" to the Marine Corps for granting him 30 days' leave before he must report to Quantico, where he was a military policeman until the April 1983 attack on the wife of one of his colleagues.
"You can't blame the whole thing on the Marine Corps," he said.
Scott said his greatest pleasure is relaxing and, for the first time, spending the day with his 3-year-old daughter Latavia, who was born soon after Scott was incarcerated at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
"I missed her first words, I missed her first steps, I missed changing her diapers," he said. "There's a lot we have to catch up on now that I'm home."
Scott, who followed a weight-lifting regimen in prison, said he has become something of a celebrity in Louisville, his home town. Strangers greet him, wish him well and welcome him home. He has thanks for his friends, family and civil rights groups, who have pressed hard for his vindication.
Scott said that if he is finally cleared, either in a retrial or through the dismissal of charges, he would consider remaining in the Marines or studying for a master's degree in corrections with an eye toward helping youngsters in Louisville.
Scott was demoted from corporal to private in addition to a 30-year prison sentence, and has not been reinstated at his old rank pending dismissal of the charges or retrial.
The military investigation focused on Scott almost immediately after the victim was found dazed and bleeding in a remote area of the Quantico base on the southern border of Prince William County the night of April 20, 1983.
The woman said she had been attacked by a black man who had telephoned her, said her husband had been in an accident, then picked her up to drive her to the hospital.
Instead, she testified, he took her to a dark spot on or near the base, raped her, slashed her throat and stabbed her.
Scott's conviction became the focus of intense criticism by civil rights groups, which pointed to the lack of conclusive physical evidence implicating Scott as well as the victim's uncertainty in picking him out of a photographic and physical lineup.
Nearly all the evidence used to convict Scott in October 1983 was circumstantial, including the victim's description of the interior of his car and her testimony concerning a bucket of tools she said she saw in the back of the car.
The victim's description was reasonably similar to Scott's appearance and Scott did have a bucket of cleaning utensils in his car on the day of the attack.
However, her description of the attacker did not match Scott precisely, and she never mentioned his prominent, glinting gold tooth.
At an evidentiary hearing less than two years after his court-martial, Scott received what seemed to be crucial help from a woman who said she had seen him at a department store in Woodbridge on the night of the attack. The woman's testimony, while it appeared to provide Scott with an alibi, contradicted her statement during the court-martial that she was unsure of the date on which she had seen him.
In addition to scorning the evidence against Scott, his supporters have also charged that "command pressure" from high-ranking Marine officers sealed his fate. They cite the instance of a military magistrate who was relieved of his duties shortly after releasing Scott early in the case for lack of evidence.
Despite the questions and ambiguities surrounding the Marine Corps' case, the harshest thing Scott would say about the military justice system was: "I wish it wouldn't have taken so long."
As for the victim, now living in New York state, Scott said simply, "I just know she made a mistake."
Of his financial situation, Scott, who said he has gone without income since January 1984, would only say, "I'm hurting, really." He will receive back pay if he is acquitted.
Some of Scott's supporters have said they hope he is granted a retrial so he can clear his name once and for all. While Scott said he would be found not guilty if a retrial is ordered, he expressed little enthusiasm for undergoing a second trial.
"I can't see why anyone would want to go through a trial again and have accusations made . . . that you know are not true."
Scott said: "I've always been a good Marine. I've never said anything to discredit the Marine Corps or to go against the Marine Corps. My actions have always been in line.
"I don't consider myself a hero. I'm just someone who's been away and had a hard time. People here look at me now and realize that. I guess they can relate to that."