The Army’s moving forward with tomorrow’s court-martial for “kill team” suspect Pfc. Andrew Holmes, but it’s not clear yet whether Holmes has a plea deal or if he’ll stand trial before a military jury.
Army spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt said the plea negotiations are still taking place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Holmes, 21, is the youngest of five soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who were accused of murdering Afghan civilians last year.
Negotiating a settlement is appealing for Holmes’ defense team because it removes the possibility that he would go to prison with a life sentence as a mandatory minimum. He and his family maintain that he’s innocent.
“It’s a huge gamble,” said his mother, Dana Holmes of Boise.
Dana Holmes is on her way to Lewis-McChord for tomorrow’s hearing. She criticized the Army for taking the word of admitted killer Pfc. Jeremy Morlock, who in March pleaded guilty to murdering three Afghan civilians.
Morlock claims Holmes joined him in murdering a young Afghan in January 2010 during a patrol. They took photos with the corpse, which later appeared in Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel magazines.
Other soldiers who witnessed the incident described it differently than Morlock. Holmes’ defense also secured testimony from a forensic pathologist who concluded Holmes’ weapon didn’t cause the Afghan’s death.
“We believe in Andy,” Dana Holmes said. “We’re just glad Andy’s going to finally get his day in court and be able to tell his side of the story.”
A plea deal must be approved by Lewis-McChord senior Army officer Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles before the court-martial begins. That means Holmes could appear in court tomorrow with a deal, he could stand trial or the hearing could be delayed while the attorneys continue their negotiations.
The Army last year leveled misconduct and war crimes charges against Holmes and 11 of his platoon mates. Seven of them have been convicted in court or accepted plea deals.
In addition to Holmes, The remaining defendants are:
Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 26, the alleged mastermind of the “kill team” murders. He claims he’s innocent, and he’s expected to face a court-martial this fall.
Spc. Michael Wagnon, 31, who is accused of participating in one of the three murders. Wagnon says he shot at the victim because he believed his unit was under attack. His court-martial has not been scheduled.
Staff Sgt. David Bram, 26, who is accused soliciting a soldier to murder Afghans and beating up a subordinate who blew the whistle on drug use in their platoon. Bram is fighting the charges and his court-martial has not been scheduled.