A Joint Base Lewis-McChord pilot today pleaded not guilty to charges of reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty in the 2011 death of a Special Forces paratrooper near a Montana training ground.
Capt. Jared Foley is alert and attentive at the start of his court-martial. The hearing is off to a slow start because of a technical glitch in the courtroom’s recording system.
So far, the main arguments center on what kind of testimony senior Air Force officers can give in court.
Air Force Capt. Mark Rosenow submitted a motion to bar witnesses from offering opinions about whether a reasonable pilot would have made the same choices as Foley during the air drop exercise on July 10, 2011.
Sgt. Francis Campion of the 19th Special Forces Group died just after the July 2011 exercise. The Afghanistan veteran from Holidaysburg, Pa. landed outside of a planned drop zone, and fell off a building to his death.
Foley’s accused of reckless endangerment because he allegedly approved an additional airdrop outside of the drop zone without gaining approval from his operations commander.
Rosenow’s motion cuts to the heart of Foley’s defense. The pilot’s attorneys want to call an expert airdrop pilot and a senior jump master to the witness stand. Those experts presumably would cast Foley’s actions as reasonable given the circumstances he encountered that day.
“They’re trying to handcuff us,” defense attorney Maj. Matthew McCall said, referring to the prosecution’s effort to restrict his witnesses.
Rosenow argues that the experts’ testimony could bias a court-martial panel because the members of the jury could rely on the experts to make their decisions instead of weighing other facts to determine Foley’s guilt.
Lt. Col. Donald Eller, the military judge, is considering Rosenow’s motion and he expects to make a decision before opening arguments begin. Also today, the attorneys must select a court-martial panel of at least five Air Force officers.
Foley has several supporters sitting behind him in uniform today. One is an Army Special Forces senior noncomissioned officer. Two others are Air Force officers.