A Joint Base Lewis-McChord staff sergeant who supervised soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians last year is in court today facing charges that he beat up the private who kicked off the Army’s “kill team” investigation.
Staff Sgt. David Bram, 27, faces 17 years in prison if he’s convicted on various charges. The accusations against him break down into two groups – the ones the Army charged against him when he came home in June 2010 and ones prosecutors filed against him in May 2011.
The first set includes accusations that Bram led a seven-man assault on then-Pfc. Justin Stoner after Stoner raised concerns about drug use at their forward base, and that Bram violated a general order by possessing photos of Afghan casualties.
The second group includes charges that Bram abused detainees and solicited another soldier to join him in a scheme shoot possibly innocent Afghans.
The Army in court today has shown sound evidence that Bram committed the offenses in the first group of charges. Stoner identified Bram as a participant in the assault, as did two more soldiers who joined in the beating.
Prosecutors also showed a five-soldier jury two photos of Bram posing with a dead Afghan. In one of them, he’s joined by former platoon leader Capt. Roman Ligsay. The Army did not file criminal charges against Ligsay for taking that photograph.
Bram’s responsibility for the second group of charges is less obvious. He did not murder any Afghans, though Pvt. Emmitt Quintal testified today that Bram wanted to shoot at Afghans on motorcycles and then drop an “off the books” AK-47 on their corpses.
Their platoon was frustrated by Afghans on motorcycles because the bikes could slip away from the Army’s Stryker vehicles. Soldiers assumed the Afghans were Taliban.
That scenario, however, did not unfold and Quintal did not describe it to prosecutors until 10 months after the Army filed its first charges against Bram.
Quintal pleaded guilty early this year to using hash during his deployment and assaulting Stoner. He has cooperated with the Army investigation since May 2010.
Bram “asked you to kill somebody at no point did you tell (the Army Criminal Investigative Division) until” Bram’s second public pretrial hearing, defense attorney Maj. Theodore Miller asked Quintal.
“I like Bram. I didn’t want to put him there,” Quintal replied.
The charges of detainee abuse, likewise, appear complicated. Quintal said Bram punched a detainee whom the platoon suspected of planted improvised explosives to kill American soldiers. Quintal said he favored that kind of treatment for people who wanted to kill his fellow soldiers.
“I would’ve done it,” Quintal said. “Hands down, I wanted to do it.”
Bram’s court-martial is expected to conclude tomorrow.
The Army accused a dozen soldiers in Bram’s platoon of wrongdoing; 10 of them have been convicted of various offenses. Five of them were accused of murdering Afghans, and four have been convicted of killing civilians.