12 soldiers face 74 charges

LEWIS-MCCHORD: Killings of Afghan civilians probed

August 26, 2010 

A total of 12 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord face charges in a widening web of alleged misdeeds and conspiracy from their yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

The soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have been charged with 74 crimes between them, ranging from drug use to the beating of a fellow Stryker soldier to the murder of Afghan civilians.

Five of the men, who were charged earlier this year with premeditated murder in the death of three civilians, now face 30 more charges, including conspiracy to commit murder and assault.

The investigation also led to charges filed this month against seven other 5th Brigade soldiers who returned this summer from a yearlong combat tour. Though none of the seven is charged with murder, their fates are bound up with the other five men.

“All of their charges derived from the murder investigation and are connected to the original five charged and their offenses,” Maj. Jenny Willis, a spokeswoman for I Corps, said Wednesday.

Willis wouldn’t say whether charges may be brought against additional soldiers, only that the investigative process continues.

She provided The Olympian with a summary of charges against the 12 alleged conspirators. She said redacted copies of the actual charge sheets, which contain some details of the purported crimes, will be released later.

Even more details will likely come out at pretrial hearings to be held at Lewis-McChord, which Willis said have been postponed until at least September. These proceedings, known as Article 32 hearings, could tie up military judges and officers for many weeks – longer if a commanding general decides there’s enough evidence to proceed to a full court-martial.

“Each case is handled separately and will occur on a unique timeline not linked to the others,” Willis said.

Eleven of the 12 soldiers are from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. The other was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion, and supported B Company.

The five soldiers charged with murder have been in custody since June; the other seven are not in pretrial confinement, base officials said Wednesday.

In May, the Pentagon announced an investigation of allegations that a group of Stryker soldiers from Lewis-McChord had deliberately killed three civilians in a series of shootings.

The allegations centered on soldiers at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, a remote outpost west of Kandahar city. The soldiers initially were under investigation for drug charges, officials said, but that led to information that they also had taken part in unprovoked killings.

According to documents filed in early June, the five original defendants are charged in the deaths of Gull Mudin on Jan. 15, Marach Agha on Feb. 22 and Mullah Adahdad on May 2. In all three cases, the Army alleges a grenade was thrown at them and they were shot with a rifle. Including the new charges filed Aug. 13, the five men together now face 41 charges, including conspiracy to commit premeditated murder for each of them.

The seven new defendants were charged this month with 33 charges, with the common thread being conspiracy to commit assault. It was not clear Wednesday who was the target of their alleged assault, although five of them are also charged with striking a fellow soldier.

In a story Wednesday in The Seattle Times, which cited statements made to military investigators by members of the platoon and court documents filed in the case, a “kill team” was formed by a group of soldiers to carry out random executions of Afghans. The ringleader was alleged to be Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs , according to the Times .

Spc. Jeremy Morlock has helped the Army unravel the alleged conspiracy by detailing his involvement and that of others in the killings, The Times reported .

Morlock’s attorney, Michael Waddington , a lawyer who defends military personnel worldwide, told the Times he will try to have his client’s statements withdrawn because he was under the influence of prescription drugs he was taking for battlefield injuries.  

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