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Alleged “kill team” ringleader due in court Thursday

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on July 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
July 20, 2011 1:18 pm

The reported ringleader of a group of Stryker brigade soldiers who allegedly murdered Afghan civilians last year is due in court for a pretrial hearing tomorrow at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Mont. has denied the Army’s allegations that plotted to murder Afghans, killed three noncombatants and collected body parts from dead Afghans.

He had a similar pretrial hearing in November, but this will be his first chance to see the Army’s main witness testify against him. Pvt. Jeremy Morlock has since pleaded guilty to his own role in the three killings and alleged the Gibbs instigated the incidents.

Morlock’s testimony at recent hearings for related cases has come under intense scrutiny lately. He’s twice suggested on the witness stand that he was the first soldier in his platoon to discuss keeping “drop weapons” to plant on Afghans to cover up suspicious incidents, which contradicts his charge that Gibbs initiated those discussions.

Another soldier also has come forward recently to say that Morlock hatched a plan to lay the blame for the killings on Gibbs to get himself a lighter sentence for his crimes.

At the same time, the Army has sworn statements several of Gibbs’ platoon mates gave to investigators last year that back up Morlock’s general theme: Gibbs joined their platoon at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in November 2009 and planting ideas about how soldiers could kill civilians in such a way that the incidents appeared to be combat.

Gibbs likely will go to trial this fall. He faces life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of the murders.

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