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Alleged “kill team” leader gets new hearing; asks to be released from jail

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on June 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
June 20, 2011 3:31 pm

The alleged ringleader of a Stryker “kill team” that murdered Afghans for sport last year will get another opportunity to see the Army’s evidence against him before going to trial, an Army spokesman said today.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs is the main target of the Army’s investigation into the murders of three noncombatants last year in southern Afghanistan. Prosecutors and other defense attorneys depict Gibbs as the “Mansonesque” leader who persuaded other soldiers to join him in killing civilians.

Through his attorney, Gibbs denies the charges and says the killings took place in legitimate combat.

He appeared in court in November for an Article 32 hearing where his attorney was supposed to be able to cross examine witnesses and gather evidence. Fifteen witnesses refused to testify, citing their right not to give self-incriminating information in court.

Some of those witnesses are now available because they have immunity agreements that protect them from prosecution, including Spc. Jeremy Morlock. Morlock pled guilty to murdering the three Afghans in March and has agreed to testify against his codefendants.

Gibbs’ attorney, Phil Stackhouse, asked Army Judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks to reopen the Article 32 hearing so he could put Morlock and others on the witness stand.

Army spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt said today that the court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord granted Stackhouse’s request.

Hawks has reopened hearings for two of Gibbs’ codefendants, Spc. Michael Wagnon and Pfc. Andrew Holmes. Wagnon is expected to appear in court next week for his hearing; Holmes had his second Article 32 hearing last month.

Stackhouse also filed a motion to get Gibbs out of the brig at Naval Base Kitsap. The soldier from Montana has been in confinement since last May, when Army investigators first learned of the killings.

Wagnon and Holmes, succeeded in having either an Army judge or their Stryker brigade commander release them until their trials. Another “kill team” codefendant, Spc. Adam Winfield, last week asked to be released, too.

Ophardt said the court at Lewis-McChord has received Stackhouse’s request to release Gibbs from pretrial confinement, but Hawks has not scheduled a hearing for that motion.

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