Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens sentenced to nine months in prison today as part of a plea deal for shooting at unarmed Afghans and lying to investigators during a probe into a Stryker platoon with whom he fought during his recent deployment.
Stevens’ plea deal requires him to testify against 11 co-defendants from the platoon who stand accused of various crimes. Five are accused of murder.
Ltc. Col. Kwasi Hawks, the judge who oversaw Stevens’ court-martial trial today at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, accepted the deal.
Stevens, 25, is in position to provide valuable testimony against Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly plotted to murder Afghan civilians. Gibbs is accused of three murders that allegedly took place between January and May during patrols from Forward Operating Base Ramrod.
Stevens says Gibbs gave him an off the books grenade last December. It was one of several such weapons Gibbs reportedly kept to use in combat or to drop on shooting victims.
Stevens was also at a March incident where Gibbs ordered soldiers to shoot at unarmed Afghans. Stevens said it was clear they weren’t a threat.
He admitted to lying to investigators about the incident because, “I was trying to protect myself.”
As part of his deal, Stevens also pleaded guilty to a charge that he lied to his superiors when he said an Afghan threw a grenade at his Stryker, an incident that resulted in him receiving a combat action badge. In reality, Stevens threw the grenade. It was the one Gibbs gave him, and Stevens was concerned he’d get in trouble for having it.
“There was no reason for it,” Stevens said in court.
Stevens had faced more than 19 years in prison for the charges to which he pleaded guilty. Prosecutors dropped a charge that he knowingly participated in a conspiracy to shoot at the Afghans.