(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - The State Department is disputing a Pentagon account that three Marines and an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil were disciplined after pushing a prostitute out of a car late last year in Brasilia.
Rather, the department said Wednesday the woman involved in the December incident tried to open a door and climb into the moving car. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the woman fell and was injured. She said no charges were filed against the four Americans but all have left Brazil.
"All of the embassy personnel were interviewed by the Brazilian civilian police. We have also conducted our own investigation into the incident and we have taken all the appropriate steps regarding the individuals involved."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday the woman was pushed from the car and that two of the three Marines had been demoted.
Panetta, speaking to reporters in Brasilia, says the Marines were pulled out of the country. Two had their ranks reduced. The embassy staffer was removed from his post.
Panetta said he had "no tolerance for that kind of conduct."
"Where it takes place you can be sure that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable," he said.
According to a defense official, "there were at least two women with the Marines outside a nightclub." The official said it appears that one of the women started a fight in a vehicle, then she was removed from the car and when she tried to re-enter fell to the ground and was injured. The official also said that no charges were filed by Brazilian authorities.
According to another defense official, the embassy staff member was a supervisor. The second official said the woman broke her collarbone when she was pushed from the car in late December.
The official says the embassy tracked the woman down and paid for her medical expenses. But in the wake of the Cartagena scandal, she has hired an attorney and is suing the embassy. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Nuland said the State Department has a zero-tolerance policy regarding prostitution but would not say whether the embassy employee violated rules or was disciplined. "Any kind of conduct of that kind exposes our employees to blackmail and other things ."