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Army drops charges against last soldier in Afghan murder case

6 February 2012 Yahoo News 30 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Army drops charges against last soldier in Afghan murder case

By Laura L. Myers | Reuters

SEATTLE (Reuters) – The U.S. Army has dismissed all charges against the last of five soldiers to face a court-martial in the slaying of unarmed Afghan civilians, officials from their home base near Tacoma, Washington, said on Friday.

Army Specialist Michael Wagnon, who was released from military detention and placed under home confinement in April, had been charged with premeditated murder in the death of a villager in Afghanistan during a tour of duty in February 2010.

“As of right now, he’s pretty much a free man,” said Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “He is still in the Army but a free man.”

The dismissal of the case against Wagnon, 31, brought to an abrupt end the Army’s prosecution of the most egregious atrocities that U.S. military personnel have been convicted of committing during a decade of war in Afghanistan.

Wagnon’s initial reaction to news of the dismissal was stunned disbelief, his defense attorney Colby Vokey told Reuters late on Friday. He then became “ecstatic” and “really relieved.”

Vokey, based in Dallas, called the dismissal “fantastic news.” He said the “Army did the right thing. We maintained all along his innocence and the government said it was the right thing to do.”

Five members of the infantry unit formerly known as the 5th Stryker Brigade were charged with killing Afghan civilians in cold blood in random attacks staged to look like legitimate combat engagements. Seven other GIs were charged with lesser offenses in a case that began as an investigation into rampant hashish abuse within the unit.

Pentagon officials have said that misconduct exposed by the case had damaged the image of the United States abroad.

Photographs entered as evidence showed the accused ringleader of the group, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, and other soldiers casually posing with bloodied Afghan corpses, drawing comparisons to the to the inflammatory Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in 2004.

Gibbs was convicted by court-martial in November of murdering three unarmed civilians, drawing an automatic life prison sentence, but he will be eligible for parole in 8 1/2 years.

His chief accuser and onetime right-hand man, Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, was sentenced in March of last year to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to the same three murders. As part of his plea deal, Morlock had agreed to testify against the remaining witnesses, including Wagnon.

A third soldier charged with murder, Adam Winfield, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison. A fourth, Andrew Holmes, was sentenced to seven years after pleading guilty to a single count of murder.

Wagnon was the last to face court-martial.

Dangerfield would not say why the charges were dropped, and a statement from the base said only that the move was “in the interest of justice.”

The dismissal of charges comes less than two weeks after a U.S. Marine sergeant accused of leading a 2005 massacre of 24 civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha pleaded guilty to one count of dereliction of duty. As part of his plea deal, the Marine, Frank Wuterich he was spared jail time and instead faces a maximum penalty of demotion to the rank of private.

Wuterich initially was charged with murder in connection with the Haditha killings. Six of the seven other Marines originally accused in that case previously had their charges dismissed by military judges, while another was cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

(Additional reporting and writing by Mary Slosson; Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Bohan and Tim Gaynor)

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30 Comments »

  1. smh

  2. dislike

  3. They should be in prison. NOW!!

  4. Unbelievable….In America, you’ll do substantially more jail time for LEAKING secret info about a mass murder, than the people who actually do the murdering themselves….

  5. Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.

  6. Bunch of bullshit they get away with killing totally innocent people…Those 5 fucks should be put to death…I dont care where the hell you are in the world,,,you don’t just kill innocent people….

  7. You know what this is war atrocities are done on both sides. Civilians kill soldiers and civilians get hit it’s war.

  8. No. The point of a disciplined force is to prevent unnecessary atrocities. To say that it is fine is insulting the dignity of our forces. And, stop using fifth grade logic. “THEY DO IT SO WHY CAN’T WE!”

    Absolutely disgusting.

  9. ”doesn’t matter,since the deads are Muslims”.but there will surely be a day to come to account anyone who killed a Muslim civilian as a murderer.for now,a Muslim blood is as cheaper as an insect’s blood.these ppl will sow what they reap.just hope for Justice to prevail in the near future!!

  10. im sure they died of natural causes as per US reports. or… simply call them collateral damage, thats what the USA does best.

  11. wow murad where is all this hatred when muslims kill christians or other muslims?

  12. I sometimes think the ”newly reformed” American military doctrin is ”kill as many Muslim civilians as possible”

  13. WTF!!!

  14. I read the article and it doesn’t say that he killed anyone. If that is the case then he should not be prosecuted. They did convict several people who were responsible so it does not look to me as if they are brushing this under the rug.

  15. @Michael,which ”hatred”?did you see anything like that in my comment?!

  16. ye Lenora,”they convicted several people” and Frank Wuterich is one of them!!

  17. “stunned disbelief”…..why? because hes a murderer and didnt think hed get off because it was too blatantly obvious he planned it and did it? thank you colonizers for once again proving the need for strident organization around your continued travesties of justice.

  18. Murder innocent people and no penalty. Let the public know what the US is really doing and you get court martialed.

  19. Michael,do you know me?!have you ever see me celebreting anyone’s death?! no Michael,i’m not the kind of person that you think i am.anyone’s death touchs me,whether Christian,Muslim or any other.for me Humanity comes first,before Religion.

  20. Hey Lenora. did you happen to NOT see this part?? “Five members of the infantry unit formerly known as the 5th Stryker Brigade were charged with killing Afghan civilians in cold blood in random attacks staged to look like legitimate combat engagements.” He was one of the 5 members…

  21. The State Dept. lets private contractors murder people. Why not the military? This country has no moral compass.

  22. DISGUSTING. No wonder the US is so hated around the world . . .

  23. Ya, of course, Americans never commit atrocities in war.

  24. Of course the charges were dismissed, that’s how it goes and it’s WRONG!

  25. you know guys,this kind of news always reminds me of that brave young man,Bradley Manning and it makes me cry.i’m not an American neither i’m in there.please do what ever it takes to free him.he doesn’t deserve to be where he is now.it’s a Medal of Honour that he should be given.this kind of people are the ones who should spend the rest of their lives behind the barrs!!
    .
    Free Our Brother Bradley Manning!!!!!!!

  26. Bull!! D:< Our own country wants to take part in stopping war crimes around the world and yet cannot even stop its own!

  27. When you train young men to be killers, they kill. Glad the charges were dropped.

  28. Well fortunately the other 3 sorry excuses for soldiers are in prison, and they can all kiss their military careers goodbye. Hey, E Ted Holm, they trained us to be soldiers, not killers. Theres a difference. Soldiers kill combatants, not civilians, and they don’t cowardly cover it up to make it look like they were hostile. Soldiers don’t get free passes to commit crimes just because they are soldiers. No military functions without accountability.

  29. What an injustice. This is truely shameful. I’m tired of hereing about our military not taking responsibility for the actions of people who are encouraged to perform atrocities towards other human beings and then once discharged cannot function in normal society. Now how do you think they will adjust when they come back home? Normal like the “when you train young men to be killers, they kill”. I’m not glad the charges were dropped. I think they need to be committed so they won’t rush to do it again.

  30. The article is excellent, I managed to get the concept!

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