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Jury finds Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs guilty on all “kill team” charges

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Nov. 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm with 7 Comments »
November 11, 2011 10:52 am

6:40 PM UPDATE: Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs will be eligible for parole. It was his only victory today. His friends breathed a sigh of relief as the jury announced that he would receive that leniency.

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6:05 PM UPDATE: Army prosecutor Maj. Dre Leblanc asked an Army jury to deny Stryker “kill team” ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs a chance to earn parole, calling the Montana soldier “monstrous.”

Leblanc cited Gibbs’ characterizations of Afghans as “dirty savages” and pointed to an oversize image of one of Gibbs’ victims. The man lay dead with a bloodied head.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is the savage,” Leblanc said. “Sgt. Gibbs is the savage, Not those innocent Afghans who did nothing but go about their lives. And Sgt. Gibbs killed them. He is the savage.”

The jury is discussing whether Gibbs should receive the possibility of a parole.

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4:30 PM UPDATE: Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs today asked the jury panel that convicted him of murdering three Afghans last year to give him a chance to earn parole one day “to give him an opportunity to be with his son.”

Gibbs did not speak directly to the jury. His attorney, Phil Stackhouse, spoke on Gibbs’ behalf. “As you can imagine, it’s an emotional day for him and his family,” Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse said Gibbs wanted the jury to know Gibbs is “not the same person he was when he was in Afghanistan, or even before he went to Afghanistan in 2009.”

Gibbs regretted his actions, Stackhouse said, and wants to help raise his 3-year-old son. He won’t be eligible for parole for at least 10 years, Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse said Gibbs asked his parents and siblings from Billings, Mont. to stay away from the trial. “He has talked to them almost daily to let them know what’s happening even though it’s very difficult for them to understand what he’s going through.”

“When he elnslited in the Army, it was never his intent – just after his 17th birthday – to ever be standing in front of a court-martial for the typies of crimes he’s been convicted,” Stackhouse said.

The jury is expected to return with its decision at 5:30 p.m.

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A Joint Base Lewis-McChord sergeant will spend the rest of his life in jail for abusing his leadership position and persuading junior soldiers to join him in plots to murder Afghan civilians in combat-like engagements last year.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs’ conviction Thursday affirms the Army’s depiction of him as a cold-blooded murderer who called Afghans “dirty savages” and openly cut fingers from corpses to bind his collaborators into a rogue “kill team.”

He was found guilty of 15 criminal charges, including three murders. The murders carry a minimum sentence of life in prison.

Gibbs appeared shocked as the jury forewoman read the verdict. His wife, Chelsy, sobbed. A sentencing session is under way in which Gibbs could win the possibility of parole.

Gibbs, 26, fought the charges, arguing he was framed by pot smoking junior soldiers who shifted blame to him for their crimes in exchange for lighter punishment from the Army. He insisted he thought the killings took place in legitimate combat in enemy territory.

But Gibbs couldn’t overcome layered testimony from his platoon mates. A five-soldier jury panel made up of three officers and two senior noncommissioned officers did not buy his defense.

“Staff Sgt. Gibbs betrayed his oath. He betrayed his unit, and with the flag of his nation blazoned across his chest thousands of miles from home, he betrayed his nation,” prosecutor Maj. Rob Stelle said Wednesday.

Gibbs was one of a dozen soldiers from Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who came home a month early from their deployment accused of misconduct ranging from assaulting a private to stabbing a corpse.

Five of them including Gibbs were accused of murdering civilians. Three of those soldiers had pleaded guilty to the murders before Gibbs’ trial, and they testified at his court-martial. The fifth alleged “kill team” participant, Spc. Michael Wagnon, is expected to face his court-martial in January.

News of their crimes circled around the world, gaining notoriety in March when Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel magazines published photographs of two of the murderers posing with the corpse of the teenage boy they killed in January 2010. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the images that month.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. NineInchNachosII says:

    Justice!

  2. Wrapper98439 says:

    First of all, there are three officers and two senior NCOs that are not his peers, and who will have their careers ended if they vote any other way than guilty on all counts. And that is why the hand-picked jurors are career soldiers. They have to protect a career. Maybe he is guilty, but the publicity made it impossible to have a verdict other than guilty.

  3. imaginethat says:

    i have to agree with that. they were going to railroad him no mater what. once this story was leaked to the press the army was in full cover thier butt mode from that point.with no physical evidence all they had was hearsay and they cut deals to make sure who they picked were going down.but even at the beginning the prosacution said all they want was the convigtion. they could bring up other things at the appeals. there were so many holes in his case i feel sorry for the guy.

  4. duke_of_hurl says:

    screw this BS…war is war..if he didnt rape a child let him go..

  5. Well, they murdered one, is that close enough?

  6. franklin159 says:

    Wrapper98439, in regard to your statement, UCMJ Article 37 provides: “No authority convening a general…court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member…with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court.” Moreover, the defense has the opportunity to question the panel before trial for bias and file motions if Article 37 is violated.

  7. franklin159 says:

    duke_of_hurl, in regard to your statement about “war is war”, please consider that the Laws of War require a Soldier to distinguish between military targets and civilians. The Laws of War require life not be taken unless there is a military necessity and the collateral damage is not disproportionate to the military advantage gained. Moreover, the UCMJ applies to Soldiers overseas. If proven beyond a reasonable doubt, killing innocent civilians in the manner alleged in the charge sheet is legally “murder.” I challenge you to think about what our nation stands for, the innocent victims, their families, and just as importantly, what you in your heart truly stand for. I hope this is helpful. I pray God leads you as you consider these thoughts.

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