Spc. Emmitt Quintal cleared his conscience about his Stryker platoon's misconduct in Afghanistan when investigators interrogated him in May. But his honesty was not enough to keep him in the Army.
Quintal, 22, was given a bad-conduct discharge at a court-martial Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
He also must do hard labor for 90 days and take a demotion to private for frequently using drugs during his combat deployment, joining an assault on a comrade and keeping digital photos of Afghan casualties.
He pleaded guilty to those three offenses, as well as a conspiracy charge related to the assault.
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“I have put discredit not only on myself and my family, but also on the uniform I wear every day,” Quintal said in the courtroom.
It could have been worse for the soldier from Weston, Ore. He negotiated a pre-trial agreement that capped his punishment and required him to testify at hearings for his codefendants in an Army war crimes investigation.
Five of his platoon mates in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are accused of murdering three Afghan civilians between January and May. Six others were charged with lesser crimes, similar to what Quintal faced.
Quintal is the second of the co-defendants to be convicted. Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to shooting at unarmed Afghans and lying to officers to cover his tracks. He is serving nine months in a military prison without pay and was demoted to private.
Quintal told Army judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks that he wanted to stay in the service, but Hawks found that the soldier’s misconduct was too extensive to give him a second chance.
Quintal has been upfront about his misconduct since the Army began looking into complaints from Pfc. Justin Stoner, the soldier who Quintal and six others assaulted May 5.
Quintal not only admitted that he participated in the beating, he also told Army investigators what he knew about other suspected war crimes when he spoke with them in May before he left Afghanistan.
Quintal told Hawks that he turned to using hashish even though he knew it was wrong because he was “scarred” by things he saw in combat.
He said he felt he was neglecting his newborn twins when he left for Afghanistan in July 2009. His sons were born two months before the soldier left.
Aside from the drug use, Quintal described a difficult environment within his platoon at Forward Operating Base Ramrod.
He said he feared Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly drew up schemes to kill civilians in combat-like situations. Gibbs is accused of having a hand in all three murders in the war crimes investigation. He denies the accusations and is awaiting a trial at Lewis-McChord.
Quintal said Gibbs had threatened co-defendant Spc. Adam Winfield, Stoner and himself when they at different times appeared ready to raise complaints about wrongdoing.
Quintal said his squad leader, Staff Sgt. David Bram, invited him to join the assault on Stoner when word got out that Stoner talked with a sergeant outside of the platoon about drug use at the base. Bram also is awaiting a court martial at Lewis-McChord.
Since coming home from Afghanistan, Quintal’s comrades have said he has appeared downtrodden because of the charges against him and stress in his marriage. Nonetheless, his platoon leader said Quintal had tried to recover from the setbacks.
“He’s taken the steps to do the right things,” Lt. Stefan Moye said. “He’s shown a lot of maturity for his age to be hit with so much at one time.”
Prosecutors countered that Quintal showed unacceptably poor judgment in Afghanistan.
“He’s not that soldier that can be trusted,” prosecutor Army Capt. Dre Leblanc said. “Spc. Quintal should not be allowed to stay in the Army to potentially lead soldiers again.”
Suspect waives right to hearing
A Stryker soldier connected to a war crimes investigation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has waived a pre-trial hearing and is in line for a court-martial.
Ashton Moore, 20, of Severna Park, Md., faces a month in prison and a demotion if convicted of shooting at unarmed Afghan civilians in March and using drugs during deployment last year with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He’s one of 12 soldiers from his platoon accused of wrongdoing. A date has not been set for his court-martial.
Soldiers who were on the March patrol where Moore allegedly shot at unarmed Afghans have given different descriptions of the incident in court. Some say the Afghans clearly were not a threat; others have said the soldiers followed an order to fire from a squad leader who perceived a threat from an Afghan with a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
Adam Ashton, staff writer