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Stryker sergeant guilty of assaulting junior soldier in 11th “kill team” case

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Nov. 18, 2011 at 10:43 am |
November 18, 2011 8:48 pm

8:50 PM UPDATE: Staff Sgt. David Bram will serve five years in prison, the jury announced tonight.

6:45 PM UPDATE: Staff Sgt. David Bram tonight pleaded for mercy from jury that will sentence him up to 14 years in prison for crimes he committed in Afghanistan last year.

Bram tearfully asked for an opportunity to be reunited with his son and daughter.

“After seeing my children ripped away from me for the sins of their father, I truly do understand the weight of what I’ve done,” he said.

He also delivered an apology that might some Lewis-McChord soldiers have been waiting to hear. He acknowledged that 4,000 soldiers from his 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are now known around the world for the crimes that took place in his 29-man platoon.

“It was the actions of a few bad apples, myself included, that defaced the good work the (5th Brigade) did in Afghanistan,” he said.

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5:10 PM UPDATE: A Stryker sergeant today was found guilty of assaulting a subordinate and soliciting a junior soldier to join him in a scheme to murder Afghan noncombatants last year.

Staff Sgt. David Bram, 27, is the Army’s 11th conviction in its “kill team” investigation. He was never accused of murdering Afghan civilians, but the verdict suggests he was aware of his soldiers’ plans to kill innocents and he didn’t try to stop their wrongdoing.

Bram also was found guilty of violating a general order by possessing photos of Afghan casualties, conspiring to assault “kill team” whistleblower then-Pfc. Justin Stoner and impeding an Army investigation.

The five-soldier jury declared Bram not guilty on charges that he abused Afghan detainees and planted an “off the books” AK-47 magazine near the corpse of a dead Afghan.

A sentencing session is underway.

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3:45 PM UPDATE: Staff Sgt. David Bram shamed himself as an Army noncommissioned officer when he assaulted a private he supervised after that junior soldier blew the whistle on drug use in their platoon during its deployment to southern Afghanistan, an Army prosecutor argued today.

The Army contends Bram joined that seven-man beat down to intimidate whistleblower then-Pfc. Justin Stoner because Bram knew that scrutiny on his platoon could lead officers to his own crimes, such as abusing detainees and plotting to murder possibly innocent Afghans.

Bram “was scared of what would come to light if that investigation started, and the best way to stop it was to shut Stoner’s mouth,” Army prosecutor Capt. Jeremy Scholtes argued.

Bram faces 17 years in prison if he’s found guilty of assaulting Stoner, possessing photos of casualties, abusing detainees and soliciting a junior soldier to join him in a plan to kill noncombatants. The jury began its deliberations about 3 p.m.

“He just started down a slippery slope of Sgt. Bram doing whatever Sgt. Bram felt like,” Scholtes said.

Bram’s attorney today seemed to concede that Bram joined the assault, but argued the Army presented questionable evidence for the other charges. For example, key witnesses had different descriptions of whether Bram had possession of an “off the books” AK-47 they said he wanted to use to kill Afghans.

Bram’s alleged “thrill kill” plot never took place, and soldiers who would have had to know about it to execute the plan said they never heard Bram talk about using an AK-47 in a murder scheme.

Defense attorney Maj. Theodore Miller said the same trend holds for the detainee abuse charges. Army witnesses said they saw Bram punch detainees on several occasions with help from other noncommissioned officers. Those sergeants testified and said they didn’t see Bram mistreat detainees.

Miller argued Army witnesses Cpl. Emmitt Quintal, Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Spc. Adam Winfield fingered Bram in their plea agreements to receive lighter punishment from the Army. All three served with Bram, and all three were convicted of crimes they committed at their forward base in southern Afghanistan.

The witnesses “need to make (Bram) the scapegoat so they can go home to their families,” Miller said.

*****

Staff Sgt. David Bram’s court-martial is wrapping up today with sparring over whether key Army witnesses exaggerated his misconduct to win better terms in their plea deals.

Jurors heard from Pfc. Michael Lecroy, who has testified that admitted “kill team” participants Spcs. Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield discussed fingering Bram to make themselves look like victims to Army investigators while they were in Afghanistan with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Both have pleaded guilty to killing innocent Afghans.

Bram’s defense also called Pvt. Ron Washington, who has claimed Morlock admitted to him that he trumped up allegations against his former platoon mates to win some clemency in his court-martial.

Morlock is serving a 24-year prison sentence. He faced life in prison had he been convicted of murder without his plea deal.

Army prosecutors today called on witnesses to rebut Lecroy’s and Washington’s testimony. Winfield and fellow “kill team” witness Cpl. Emmitt Quintal said the conversation Lecroy says he overheard did not happen.

Bram, 27, faces 17 years in prison if he’s convicted of a mix charges including assault and solicitation to commit a murder. He’s the 11th soldier from his platoon to face a court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over suspected wrongdoing at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan last year. The Army has convicted the previous 10 soldiers, including sending four to jail for murdering noncombatants.

Bram’s court-martial is expected to end today.

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