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Stryker sergeant to face court-martial in “kill team” investigation

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Aug. 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
August 30, 2011 5:42 pm

The Army is moving forward with most of the charges it pressed against a Joint Base Lewis-McChord sergeant linked to its Stryker “kill team” investigation despite a July report that expressed skepticism about the soldier’s guilt.

The decision means that Staff Sgt. David Bram, 27, of Vacaville, Calif. will face a general court-martial on charges that he asked a fellow soldier to kill Afghans in combat-like scenarios, abused detainees and assaulted a subordinate who blew the whistle on drug use in their platoon.

Bram has been a suspect linked to a group of five 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers who allegedly murdered Afghan noncombatants last year.

He initially was one of seven soldiers from their platoon who faced lesser charges of misconduct, but the Army pressed new charges against him in May alleging he played a greater role in alleged war crimes.

Army investigating officer Maj. John Tincher in June considered the new charges at a pretrial hearing and later wrote a report that cast doubt on the most serious ones, such as an allegation that Bram participated in talks about murdering civilians.

Tincher largely faulted the platoon’s leadership at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan. He interviewed key witnesses and wrote that commanders didn’t provide adequate training on how to handle detainees, when to engage the enemy or what to do with casualties.

It wasn’t Tincher’s job to decide whether Bram would go to trial. That responsibility belonged to Lewis-McChord senior Army officer Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles, who found that there was enough evidence to proceed with most of the case, an Army spokesman said.

Liles dismissed two counts – one of which suggested Bram participated in talks with junior soldiers about murdering Afghans, and another that alleged Bram was derelict in his performance because he failed to report crimes he knew his soldiers had committed.

Two of Bram’s platoon mates who have accepted plea agreements admitting to crimes they committed at the base in Afghanistan testified in June that Bram was part of a clique of soldiers who plotted killings.

Bram’s attorney was not available for comment Tuesday. At past hearings, defense attorney Bill Cassara has cast the Army witnesses as discontented soldiers who sought to sweeten the terms of their plea agreements by laying allegations against Bram and others in the unit.

Bram’s court-martial has not been scheduled, I Corps spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt said.

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