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Army drops murder charge against last soldier tied to “kill team” cases

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Feb. 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
February 3, 2012 3:39 pm

The Army today dropped its case against the fifth soldier it accused of murdering Afghan civilians during a 2010 deployment with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade, his attorney said.

The decision ends a 19-month ordeal for Spc. Michael Wagnon, 31, who came home early from his deployment in June 2010 facing charges that he murdered a noncombatant and tried to obstruct an investigation into wrongdoing among his platoon mates.

He was one of 12 soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who were charged with misdeeds during their deployment to Southern Afghanistan. The Army has convicted the other 11, including sending four to jail in connection with three civilian killings.

Wagnon was expected to go to trial in March. He faced life in prison on the murder charge.

His attorney, Colby Vokey, confirmed by email this afternoon that the Army dropped the charges.

The case against Wagnon appeared weaker than the others from the beginning. An Army investigating officer has twice recommended that prosecutors dismiss the case before today.

It hinged on an account from admitted “kill team” participant Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who has testified that Wagnon knowingly participated in a scheme to kill a civilian during a February 2010 patrol. Morlock pleaded guilty to participating in the three killings last year and is serving a 24-year prison sentence.

Wagnon has testified that he shot at an Afghan that day in February 2010 because he believed the man had fired a weapon at Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. Gibbs in November was sentenced to life in prison for murdering three Afghans, including the man in the February 2010 incident.

Wagnon was one of the most experienced soldiers to face charges in connection with the so-called “kill team.” He had served on two deployments to Iraq and was well-regarded by soldiers from his previous units.

He is a father of three who lives at Lewis-McChord. He was released from prison in June under the condition that he wore an ankle monitor.

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