Thursday, May 6, 2010

Virginia military jury finds Navy SEAL not guilty

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe was found not guilty on charges of abusing a suspected terrorist detainee in Iraq.  The Associated Press reports:
A military jury in Virginia found a Navy SEAL not guilty Thursday on charges of punching a suspected Iraqi terrorist.

Jurors deliberated about an hour and 40 minutes before returning their verdict in the court-martial of Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe.

The 24-year-old Perrysburg, Ohio, man was tried at Naval Station Norfolk on accusations of assaulting Ahmed Hashim Abed, who is suspected of plotting the 2004 slayings of four U.S. contractors in Fallujah.

The prosecution's key witness had testified he saw McCabe deliver a right cross to Abed's midsection. However, several defense witnesses contradicted portions of that testimony.

A Navy prosecutor said in closing arguments that SEALs were trying to protect one of their own.

"They circled the wagons," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Grover. "They don't want Petty Officer McCabe to be held responsible for this."

A defense lawyer said he found that suggestion offensive.

Several defense witnesses contradicted the testimony of Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartino, who said he saw McCabe slug the detainee in the stomach. Those witnesses also testified that McCabe, a decorated SEAL, was known for strong character, integrity and truthfulness.

"Don't be blinded by medals," Grover told the jury. "Everyone is equally accountable to do the right thing."

Defense attorney Haytham Faraj said the prosecution was asking the jury to take the word of a terrorist and a sailor who admitted initially lying about the incident over the testimony of numerous other witnesses.

"I disagree with the concept that the SEALs are covering up. It's actually pretty offensive," Faraj said.

The defense suggested throughout the trial that Abed employed a standard terrorist tactic of feigning injury, perhaps even biting his own lip to spill blood onto his clothing.

"We're here because a mass murderer, a vile person cloaked in a human body, claims he was beaten," Faraj said.

Grover said there was another reason McCabe was prosecuted.

"We uphold the rules and we're better than the terrorists. That's why we're here," Grover said.

Two other SEALs who were accused of covering up the assault were acquitted last month in Iraq after a judge heard much of the same evidence and testimony that was presented in McCabe's trial.

McCabe's trial was held in Virginia because unlike the other two SEALS he did not insist on confronting his accuser in court. Prosecutors played an audio recording of Abed's deposition at McCabe's trial.

McCabe was charged with assault, dereliction of duty and lying to investigators. He could have received up to a year in jail if convicted.
Earlier today, Michelle Oddis, reported for Human Events that star prosecution witness Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartino, had been effectively discredited during the trial:
DeMartino, the only witness that said he saw the defendant strike the suspect, could face a dishonorable discharge for not performing his duties correctly when he was assigned to guard the terrorist, giving him motivation to lie on the stand, according to the case being built by the defense lawyers.

DeMartino’s job as a Master at Arms (MA) was to stay with the detainee at all times. A Navy photographer said when she came to take photos of the detainee “she could not find him anywhere.” The photographer was not the only witness to claim Wednesday that DeMartino was not where he was suppose [sic] to be that day. [snip]

Navy Reserve member Paul Franco, DeMartino’s supervisor on the camp, said that he had “reservations” about DeMartino’s “truthfulness.” Franco said that often DeMartino lied about completing tasks.

Franco testified that DeMartino came to him after the alleged incidents to talk. He was crying and visibly upset. “He told me ‘I hate this ****ing place, this guy is going to make a claim,” Franco said.

Franco, an 11-year Navy Reserves member, said that in prior weeks to the incident DeMartino was under more pressure due to extra work. He had noticed that DeMartino stopped working out and seemed to have lost motivation.

Franco testified that he directed DeMartino to talk to a commanding officer who was better qualified to deal with a claim of abuse by the detainee.

The photographer who testified she could not find DeMartino when she needed to take her photos of Abed, said that DeMartino sought her advice as well.

She testified that she saw DeMartino upset and that “he said his life was over,” “he said he couldn’t eat or sleep.” DeMartino talked with several of the witnesses who claim they saw him panicked and that he talked of wanting to be a California Highway Patrol Officer and that his chances could be ruined.
McCabe talked to Fox News shortly after hearing the outcome of the court martial and said he was "really happy" and "on cloud nine right now:"
McCabe, a special operations petty officer second class, called the proceedings "troubling at times," adding "having your career on the line is not an easy thing to handle.

McCabe was the third and final Navy SEAL to be prosecuted in the case. He had faced charges of assault, making a false official statement and dereliction of performance of duty for willfully failing to safeguard a detainee. McCabe was accused of punching last year is [sic] Ahmed Hashim Abed, the suspected mastermind of the grisly killings six years ago.

After the court martial, the 24-year-old from Perrysburg, Ohio, thanked the public for its continued support.

"It's been great everything they've done," he told Fox News. "But, don't worry about it anymore. We are putting this all behind us. It's done and over with. I'm going to try not to think about this ever again."
Spoken like a Navy SEAL who is ready to get back to work.  Godspeed, Sailor.

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