A Stryker soldier from Montesano was discharged from the Army and sentenced to 60 days of hard labor Wednesday after he was convicted of assaulting a comrade who blew the whistle on drug use in their platoon during a deployment to Afghanistan last year.
Spc. Adam Kelly, 26, also was found guilty of conspiring to harm the whistleblower, Spc. Justin Stoner. Kelly was found not guilty of using drugs during the deployment and not guilty of trying to obstruct an Army investigation.
Kelly made a strong play to stay in the Army even after he pleaded guilty to joining six other soldiers in assaulting Stoner at their base in May.
He said he regretted participating in the beating and he brought forward four character witnesses who told Army judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks that Kelly has performed his job exceptionally well since he returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division last summer.
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“This is what I was meant to do,” Kelly said just before he was sentenced. “I was put on this earth to be an infantryman.”
Prosecutors countered that Kelly couldn’t be trusted to lead other soldiers even though he’d been given more responsibility since coming back to the states.
“The crime is of the nature and of a degree that Spc. Kelly doesn’t get a second chance,” prosecutor Capt. Dre Leblanc said.
Kelly is one of 12 soldiers in his platoon accused of misconduct during the deployment. Five of them face charges that they murdered three civilians during patrols.
The assault on Stoner kicked off the investigation that revealed suspicious killings and alleged drug use among members of the platoon.
Army prosecutors argued that Kelly joined the assault because he wanted to prevent Stoner, who’d already raised complaints about drug use, from talking with officers about misconduct in the platoon.
Kelly contended that prosecutors were making too much of his role in the beating. He was the last soldier to strike Stoner, and admitted to punching him and spitting in his face.
From Kelly’s perspective, he joined the beating because Stoner already was disliked by most soldiers in the platoon, not because Kelly intended to cover anything up.
“What we have here is the government trying to convict Spc. Kelly of other charges simply by guilt by association,” Kelly’s attorney, Capt. Scott Crivelli, said.
Kelly’s conviction is the Army’s fourth in the case. Three others have pleaded guilty to misconduct and agreed to testify against their co-defendants. None of the soldiers charged with murder has faced a court-martial yet.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 email@example.com