One of five Stryker soldiers accused of killing civilians in Afghanistan intends to waive a hearing he could have used to gather evidence for his defense and instead move on to a full court-martial, his attorney said Wednesday.
Spc. Adam Winfield was expected to appear in court next week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing, as four of his codefendants have done since September.
One of those fellow soldiers, Spc. Michael Wagnon, saw his Article 32 hearing end Wednesday after he took the stand in his own defense and said “all I did was my job.”
Wagnon is accused of murdering a noncombatant, keeping a piece of a human skull taken from an Afghan corpse, trying to destroy evidence and shooting at unarmed Afghan farmers.
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Winfield is accused of killing a civilian, shooting at the farmers and smoking hashish during his brigade’s deployment at Forward Operating Base Ramrod.
Eric Montalvo, Winfield’s attorney, said he is negotiating a plea deal that would call on Winfield to testify against his codefendants. Without that agreement, Winfield would refuse to take the witness stand.
“We determined that the (Article 32 hearing) was without benefit and we have been discussing a way through with the government without result,” Montalvo said.
The Army has not received notice that Winfield will waive his hearing, and government attorneys are preparing for the court date, Army spokewoman Maj. Kathleen Turner said.
Winfield, of Cape Coral, Fla., has maintained that he participated in a May scheme to kill a civilian out of fear of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, a squad leader who allegedly threatened Winfield and orchestrated scenarios to murder three Afghans in combat-like scenarios.
Winfield and Spc. Jeremy Morlock provided extensive statements describing misconduct in their platoon, such as Gibbs’ alleged murder schemes and rampant drug use at their base. Morlock is accused in all three murders and is described by prosecutors as Gibbs’ right-hand man.
Neither Morlock nor Winfield has testified in an Article 32 hearing so far, but their statements are becoming ripe targets for the attorneys representing their co-defendants. All belong to Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Wagnon’s attorney this week called on several members of their platoon who described Morlock as a “liar” and Winfield as someone who would shift blame to other soldiers.
“If you’re going to lie about something small, then you’re probably willing to lie about something else,” said Sgt. Eric Skinner, Wagnon’s former roommate.
Skinner testified that he had caught both Morlock and Winfield misleading him over minor incidents, such as leaving a door unlocked.
Geoffrey Nathan, Morlock’s attorney, has watched the testimony come just weeks after he portrayed Gibbs as the ringleader of misconduct in the platoon.
“Everyone is throwing my client under the bus so they can save their own hide,” Nathan said by phone Wednesday. “We’ll see in time if that works.”
“The reason they’re giving Winfield this immunity deal is so he can testify against my guy,” Nathan said.
The Army has given a handful of immunity agreements to infantrymen in Winfield’s platoon, but not to soldiers accused of serious wrongdoing. During Wagnon’s hearing this week, it was revealed that Skinner and perhaps others have been granted immunity deals to secure their testimony. None has been charged with any crimes.
Gibbs appeared in court early this month for his Article 32 hearing, but the soldiers who alleged he concocted scenarios to kill civilians did not testify. Gibbs’ attorney, Philip Stackhouse, highlighted their absence in his closing remarks Nov. 9.
“Without Morlock and Winfield testifying on those murder charges, there’s no charge. And they’re not going to be able to testify unless their charges are adjudicated,” Stackhouse said in court.
As for Wagnon, his attorney is aiming to have the 30-year-soldier released from confinement at Joint Base Lewis-McChord by Christmas.
Prosecuting attorney Capt. Dre LeBlanc said in closing arguments Wednesday that Wagnon “was part and parcel of the conspiracy and the act to” kill a noncombatant during a patrol in February.
The soldier from Las Vegas denied the charges in a brief statement at the end of his hearing.