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Army sets hearing for soldier accused of assaulting whistleblower

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Oct. 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm with No Comments »
October 20, 2010 1:30 pm

A Stryker soldier who allegedly beat up a private during their deployment in southern Afghanistan will appear before an Army investigating officer Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for a hearing that will help determine whether he goes to a court martial trial.

Staff Sgt. David Bram, 27, of Vacaville, Calif., faces charges that he joined an assault on Pfc. Justin Stoner that was intended to keep Stoner from speaking to superior officers about drug use at Forward Operating Base Ramrod.

Bram is among a dozen soldiers in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who stand accused of a mix of crimes during their deployment earlier this year. Five of the soldiers are awaiting trials to face charges that they killed civilians.

Stoner led Army investigators to the unit when he drew attention to soldiers allegedly smoking hashish in a room he shared with another specialist.

Two days later, word got back to others that Stoner had raised a flag about drug use. That’s when six soldiers allegedly assaulted him in the room.

In a sworn statement to Army investigators, Stoner said Bram started the assault by pinning him against a wall by his neck. Stoner said other soldiers then punched and kicked him below his neck where bruises wouldn’t show.

“They intentionally made it so that there were no visual signs than anyone could see if I was out,” Stoner said. “Before leaving the room, somebody made a threat that if I said something they would just kill me out on a mission.”

Bram is charged with being part of a conspiracy to commit assault and battery, unlawfully striking another soldier, violating a general order by keeping photographs of Afghan casualties, failing to dispose of an AK-47 firearm that was taken from an Afghan soldier, strangling Stoner in such a way as to constitute cruelty and maltreatment, and trying to impede an investigation.

The U.S. Military Code of Justice specifies different penalties for assault depending on the severity and circumstances. Generally, the penalties call for a court martial and less than five years in prison.

Bram and Stoner each were called to testify as witnesses for a hearing last month in a related case. Each declined to testify, citing the 5th Amendment.

At tomorrow’s hearing, an investigating officer will consider evidence against Bram and make a recommendation about whether he should stand trial. Lt. Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti has the final decision on whether Bram will go to trial.

Read Thursday for live coverage of Bram’s hearing.

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