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Judge sets April court date for alleged ringleader of Stryker “kill team”

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Jan. 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm with No Comments »
January 25, 2011 12:08 pm

The alleged ringleader of a Stryker “kill team” that murdered Afghans for sport is headed to trial on April 4, an Army judge announced today.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 26, did not issue a plea at his arraignment in a Joint Base Lewis-McChord courtroom. He was accompanied by his wife, Chelsy, and he did not speak except to confirm that he understood the charges against him and wanted to keep the two lawyers who have been representing him.

Gibbs is the main target in the Army’s investigation into suspected war crimes that were committed on patrols from Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan. A dozen soldiers in his platoon are accused of wrongdoing during their deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Five, including Gibbs, face murder charges.

His court-martial date is the first announced for the group of  soldiers who are accused of murder. He faces life in prison if he’s found guilty.

Some of Gibbs’ codefendants told Army investigators in May that he devised scenarios to kill Afghans in combat-like situations. He’s charged with a having a hand in three murders, as well as assaulting a fellow soldier, threatening another soldier and keeping off-the-books weapons that he allegedly used to cover up illegitimate killings.

Two soldiers who were accused of lesser crimes have accepted plea agreements that require them to testify against Gibbs and other codefendants. However, neither of those soldiers – Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens and Spc. Emmitt Quintal – is believed to be a direct witness to any of the three killings that make up the most serious charges against Gibbs.

Two soldiers who could provide testimony about those incidents also face murder charges. Lawyers for Spc. Adam Winfield and Spc. Jeremy Morlock have said they were working on plea agreements in exchange for their testimony.

Winfield’s lawyer is in trial and unavailable for comment. Morlock’s attorney declined to comment on his client’s status.

Gibbs maintains that the killings took place in combat.

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