This is a story that I've been keeping an eye on. The Military Judge investigating the case will make a decision within the next few weeks.
http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=319301 (putting the entire text of the article on here, as they start charging for archives after a while)Army says use of force on drunken pal not allowed
By John Ramsey
Last summer, investigators say, Pfc. Luke Brown died after being punched, kicked, choked and handcuffed by soldiers in his unit who were trying to get their drunken buddy home after a night out on the town.
Four months later, the Army charged seven men from Brown’s 82nd Airborne Division intelligence unit with involuntary manslaughter, saying their actions were negligent and unnecessarily led to Brown’s death.
The case raises questions about whether the Army encourages soldiers to take responsibility for their drunken and belligerent comrades, even if it means knocking them out to get them home.
Lt. Col. Clarence Counts, an 82nd Airborne spokesman, disputes that assertion. Counts said soldiers are expected to keep their friends safe, but there’s no rule, spoken or unspoken, that condones rendering a soldier unconscious to bring him back. Keeping a friend safe could be as simple as making sure he has the number for a taxi to get him home, Counts said.
“I’ve never heard, nor is it true, to knock somebody out to bring them home. I would be shocked if that is communicated from any leadership down to anybody.” Counts said. “I think there’s an expectation that you take care of your airborne buddy and return them safely.”
But soldiers who weren’t there the night Brown died say there’s a widespread understanding in the 82nd Airborne Division. Men are expected to do what it takes to get a buddy home, they say, even if that means pummeling him.
Former Sgt. Matt Scoggan, who was in the 82nd from 2004 to 2006, recalled these directions from his first sergeant, ones he said he used often:
“Knock him out and drag him home. He’ll forgive you in the morning,” Scoggan said. “I’d rather have hardship with one of my friends than for him to get in trouble with the military.”
But Brown didn’t make it to the morning. He died — face down, legs up, hands still tied behind his back — in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle headed back to Fort Bragg.
During a preliminary hearing last month for five of the accused, Chief Warrant Officer 3 James D. Lyonais said it was common during weekend safety briefings to hear the refrain of, “It doesn’t matter how you get them home. You knock them out, you bring them home, and we’ll deal with them later.”
If someone gets left behind and gets in trouble with the police, his commanders may see it on a police blotter. If someone gets in trouble or was injured, what could happen to the soldiers who left him behind?
Punishment would go to those who left him, Lyonais said during the preliminary hearing for the five soldiers — Sgt. Christopher Mignocchi, 22, of Hollywood, Fla.; Sgt. Kyle G. Saltz, 25, of Richland, Wash.; Sgt. Justin A. Boyle, 28, of Rocky Point, N.Y.; Spc. Charles B. DeLong, 24, of Dade City, Fla.; and Pfc. Andrey Udalov, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Two other warrant officers testified similarly that the men who tried to get Brown home seemed to be doing the right thing.
Details from testimony and sworn statements read aloud during the hearing depicted a wild ending to a night at the Ugly Stick Saloon.
Brown, who had recently finished an Army substance-abuse program, went out to the bar with about 10 men from his unit on July 19.
He complained early that beers cost more than $4 each. Before closing time, he got in an argument with a soldier in the bar who wasn’t in his group, then took the man’s beer and chugged it.
As closing time approached, Brown ran from the bar saying “I want to die” and “nobody loves me.”
He originally hid under a tractor-trailer, then ripped up a fence to get under it and out into the woods. He charged at the men who went into the woods to retrieve him. To get him out, testimony shows, they restrained Brown and choked him to unconsciousness twice. They bound his hands with zip ties before carrying him out of the woods and loading him in a back seat.
Capt. Carpaccio Owens, a bouncer at the Ugly Stick, helped one of the soldiers find zip ties to bind Brown. He said during the hearing that it seemed like a reasonable request.
“If I had felt they were going to do any harm to any soldier in the U.S. Army, I would not have given them the zip ties,” he said.
Brown, at 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, was much larger than anyone else in his crew.
At his old workplace, It’z Entertainment City, a couple of his co-workers nicknamed him Thor.
Leonard Hargrove worked with Brown at It’z. On Thursday, while checking IDs at the door, he recalled several nights out drinking with Brown after work.
Hargrove said Brown had previously run out into the woods after drinking. And he could be spiteful if his feelings were hurt, Hargrove said.
One night, Brown had seemingly passed out on a couch when another man started talking badly about him.
Before anyone realized what was happening, Hargrove said, Brown stood up and urinated on the man’s television and floor.
Hargrove said the soldiers who were with Brown may have been rougher than necessary, but he understands how it could take seven men to corral him.
It’s not uncommon to see a group of buddies force an uncooperative soldier into a car to get him home, Hargrove said.
Scoggan, the former 82nd soldier, said he had to drag someone home almost every weekend at Fort Benning and about every other weekend at Fort Bragg.
“I know my buddies would do it for me,” he said.
An Article 32 hearing for the two soldiers absent from the hearing last month — Spc. Ryan Sullivan, 23, of Mount Laurel, N.J. and Spc. Joseph A. Misuraca, 22, of Harper Woods, Mich. — is scheduled for Friday.
The hearing is like a civilian grand jury and is used to determine whether the men will face a court-martial. The case will hinge on whether the government can prove that Brown died during an assault from the men or that the men’s negligence led to Brown’s death.
Anita Gorecki represents Boyle, the soldier accused of choking Brown while telling him to “go to sleep” and that he would let him go if Brown stopped resisting. Gorecki said the case is a tragedy, but nothing more.
The men were doing what they thought was the right thing, she said.
“They just needed to get Brown back to the barracks. I don’t think it was any more complicated than that,” Gorecki said. “Had they done so, I think on the next morning on a company level they would’ve gotten ‘attaboys’ for getting the intoxicated soldier home that day. It’s hard to imagine how many times, on any given weekend, buddies are looking out for buddies and bringing someone home.”
http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=319924Soldier's death hearing: Testimony sheds light on choking
By John Ramsey
A paratrooper put a choke hold on the first man in his unit who tried to prevent him from running away after a night out drinking last summer, according to sworn statements obtained by The Fayetteville Observer.
The runaway soldier, Pfc. Luke Brown, died at the end of a night in which he was punched, kicked, choked and thrown handcuffed into a back seat by men from his unit who went with him to the Ugly Stick Saloon on Raeford Road on July 19.
Seven men from his intelligence unit in the 82nd Airborne Division are charged with involuntary manslaughter for the force they used to get Brown back to the barracks after he ran out into the woods.
The Army on Saturday, after 13 hours of testimony the day before, wrapped up an Article 32 hearing for Sgt. Ryan Sullivan and Spc. Joseph Misuraca. An Article 32 is similar to a civilian grand jury, held to determine whether to send charges forward to a trial.
A hearing for the other five men was held last month. None of the men accused had ever testified, and the government’s only eyewitness to the altercation arrived in the woods 20 to 30 minutes after it began. But sworn statements from the investigation shed some light on the beginning of the fight.
Sgt. Ryan Sullivan, then a specialist, swore to investigators in writing July 23 that he was the first man to catch up to the 6-foot, 250-pound Brown.
Sullivan said he tackled Brown a few times in the woods to try to keep him from running away, then Brown put him in a choke hold. That’s when Sgt. Justin A. Boyle found them in the woods.
“He was choking the life out of Sullivan,” Boyle said Saturday morning outside of the room where the hearing was held.
Sgt. Mitchell Lafortune, the only eyewitness in the woods who isn’t charged in Brown’s death, testified that by the time he arrived, Boyle was choking Brown and other men were restraining him.
Lafortune said he saw Misuraca punching Brown and heard him laughing about it. He said Sullivan never punched or kicked Brown, just held onto an arm to help restrain him.
Defense lawyers for Misuraca and Sullivan questioned Lafortune’s credibility Saturday. Lafortune’s testimony differs slightly from his sworn statements. For example, he never told investigators that anyone was laughing while Brown was being punched. Lafortune testified he remembers more now because his memory of the night has improved.
Testimony on Saturday from Brown’s roommate and his supervisor described him as a competitive fighter who always had an energy drink in his hand. They said Brown entered an Army substance abuse program last year after an incident in which he vomited on his commander’s shoes.
A major question surrounding Brown’s death has been the condition of his heart.
Expert doctors called Friday by each side disagreed over whether Brown’s heart, at 500 grams, was abnormally large or normal for his height and weight.
Dr. Allen Burke, who examined Brown’s heart as part of the autopsy, testified Saturday that he does not believe sudden heart failure could have caused Brown to die.
The pathologist who conducted Brown’s autopsy initially ruled his cause of death undetermined because she couldn’t tell whether his heart or asphyxia had killed him. She changed her ruling last week to homicide by asphyxia. That change means she thinks Brown died either from being choked or placed handcuffed in the back seat of the car.
Solomon said she changed her mind after receiving new information in the case. Defense lawyers argued she always knew the facts, and crumbled to pressure to change her opinion after charges were filed against the soldiers.
During closing arguments, defense lawyers hammered the credibility of the pathologist assigned to Brown’s autopsy, Navy Cmdr. Carol Solomon. Her testimony on the cause and manner of death could be critical if the case goes to court-martial.
Solomon stumbled through hours of testimony Friday, appearing unwilling or unable to answer many questions from the defense.
“Dr. Solomon doesn’t know if it’s Tuesday or chicken soup,” said Keith Scherer, one of the Chicago lawyers representing Misuraca. “She couldn’t come up with straightforward answers that you needed, and that we needed.”
The prosecutor, Capt. Paul Dubbeling, wrapped up the cases against Misuraca and Sullivan by saying they took part in an assault that ended up killing Brown. By law, an assault that results in death is grounds for involuntary manslaughter charges.
Even if Sullivan never hit Brown, he shares blame for helping to hold him down and for suggesting the idea of choking him to get him to stop resisting, Dubbeling said.
Dubbeling dismissed claims of self-defense and of duty-bound soldiers doing what was necessary to bring Brown home.
“It’s not self-defense to follow someone into the woods and try to tackle him,” Dubbeling said before turning to the issue of leaving no man behind. “The obligation is to bring soldiers back safely. That is precisely what this group of soldiers failed to do.”
The military judge investigating the case, Lt. Col. John Saunders, will recommend in the coming weeks whether any or all of the seven men charged should face court-martial. The final decision lies with the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The men charged who weren’t part of the hearing on Saturday are Sgt. Christopher Mignocchi, 22, of Hollywood, Fla.; Sgt. Kyle G. Saltz, 25, of Richland, Wash.; Sgt. Justin A. Boyle, 28, of Rocky Point, N.Y.; Spc. Charles B. DeLong, 24, of Dade City, Fla.; and Pfc. Andrey Udalov, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Some of the men face other smaller charges in relation to the incident.
Brown’s family has decided to keep a distance from the proceedings since charges were filed. Brown’s father, Bradley Brown, declined to give a sworn statement to investigators on the day charges were filed.
Contacted on Saturday, Brown said the family is “just letting the Army do its thing.”
“We didn’t want to interfere or think we needed justice or restitution,” Brown said.
In December, Pfc. Brown’s brother told The Free Lance Star in Brown’s hometown of Fredericksburg, Va., that the family had forgiven the soldiers.
“We don’t want Luke’s legacy to be seven court-martials,” Paul Brown said. “We want it to be compassion and kindness.”
On Saturday, Bradley Brown said the family’s position hasn’t changed.
There was another article along the same lines as the one above at http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=319780 but the reporter included a quote from one of the lawyers that I had to share
I'm sorry, but I think the death is still the most tragic thing in this case. Maybe I have a warped sense of things, but in my opinion death trumps disciplinary action.James Culp, a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper representing Sullivan, echoed the sentiment of lawyers at last month’s hearing.
“Pfc. Brown’s death is tragic,” Culp said Friday. “The only thing more tragic in my mind is this entire court-martial process.”