A Stryker soldier who cooperated with an Army investigation into suspected war crimes was discharged Wednesday for bad conduct stemming from his role in an assault on a comrade and his drug use during his deployment to Afghanistan.
It could have been worse for Spc. Emmitt Quintal, 22.
He negotiated a plea deal that requires him to testify against several codefendants but capped his exposure to prison time. A codefendant facing the same charges could spend 11 years in prison if he’s convicted at a court martial later this year.
Quintal also must serve 90 days doing hard labor that will be assigned by his brigade commander, and he will be demoted to private.
He told Army judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks that he wanted to stay in the service, but Hawks found that the soldier’s misconduct was too extensive to give him a second chance.
Quintal in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord acknowledged that he smoked hashish with other soldiers about once a week during his deployment to southern Afghanistan with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division last year. He pleaded guilty to another charge that he violated a general order by keeping images of Afghan casualties.
He also admitted that he joined an assault on then-Pfc. Justin Stoner on May 5, shortly after Stoner had raised concerns about drug use in their platoon.
Those complaints kicked off an investigation that resulted in a dozen soldiers facing misconduct charges. Five are accused of murdering three civilians between January and May.
“You clearly have a lot to offer the Army,” Hawks told Quintal after sentencing the soldier. “But what you got involved in was serious bad conduct.”
Quintal has been up front about his role in the misconduct ever since the Army began looking into Stoner’s complaints. He cleared his conscience about his offenses and he told Army investigators what he knew about other suspected war crimes when he spoke with them in May before he left Afghanistan.
Quintal told Hawks that he turned to using hashish during his deployment even though he knew it was wrong because he was “scarred” by things he saw in combat and feeling as if he neglected his newborn twins when he left for Afghanistan in July 2009. His sons were born two months before Quintal left the country.
“For me it was probably the hardest part of my life,” he said. “I felt like I abandoned my children, my family.”
Aside from the drug use, Quintal described a difficult environment in his platoon at Forward Operating Base Ramrod.
He said he feared Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly drew up schemes to kill civilians in combat-like situations. Gibbs is accused of having a hand in all three of the murders in the war crimes investigation. He denies the accusations and is awaiting a trial at Lewis-McChord.
Quintal said Gibbs had threatened codefendant Spc. Adam Winfield, Stoner and Quintal when they at different times appeared ready to raise complaints about wrongdoing in the platoon.
“Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs told me I had a very large mouth, a big mouth, and if I told anyone he would kill me,” Quintal said. “I’ve always felt threatened against Staff Sgt. Gibbs.”
Quintal’s own squad leader, Staff Sgt. David Bram, invited him to join the assault on Stoner. Bram also is awaiting a court martial at the base.
Quintal said he participated in the beating because he was angry with Stoner and concerned that he would fail a drug test.
“I felt my life was slipping away,” he said. “I was at the point where I knew I was in trouble and I didn’t care if I got in more trouble.”
Since coming home from Afghanistan, Quintal’s comrades have said he has appeared downtrodden because of the charges against him and stress in his marriage. They said he was upset when a video of his interrogation in Afghanistan appeared on CNN.
Nonetheless, his platoon leader said Quintal had made a good effort to recover from the setbacks.
“He’s shown a lot of maturity for his age to be hit with so much at one time,” Lt. Stefan Moye said.