Lawyer: Marine played a minor role in Private Hazing’s death
NORFOLK, Virginia – A U.S. Navy defense attorney told jurors on Wednesday he played a minor role in the hazing of an American Green Beret and should not be convicted of murder and d other crimes in the death of the soldier.
Speaking inside a naval base in Virginia, Lt. Col. Timothy Kuhn said Mario Madera-Rodriguez never touched Master Sgt. Logan Melgar during the fatal African hazing incident in 2017 until he tried to help revive him.
“The facts have been manipulated and moved around like a puzzle to match government theory,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn spoke during the pleadings of the Madera-Rodriguez trial. The Marine is the last of four U.S. servicemen to face a court martial for Melgar’s murder.
Madera-Rodriguez, who belongs to a Marine special operations group known as the Raiders, is the only one of the four men to plead not guilty. The others, which include another Navy and two Navy SEALS, have already made plea deals with military prosecutors.
Military prosecutors said the men were angry at the affronts received by Melgar during their stay in Mali. In particular, some were upset that they missed a party at the French Embassy in the capital Bamako because Melgar and the others broke up in traffic.
Their plan was to suffocate Melgar until he passed out and then humiliate him by filming him with a phone camera, prosecutors said.
Despite the risks of “manuals” and the known dangers of such strangulation, “they do it anyway,” military prosecutor Benjamin Garcia said during his oral argument on Wednesday.
Navy Cmdr. Garcia told jurors that Madera-Rodriguez chose to get duct tape to help tie up the green beret. And Garcia said Madera-Rodriguez chose to help him restrain him while a Navy SEAL enforced the choke. Melgar died of strangulation.
“They tied him up and he couldn’t type,” Garcia said.
Much of the pleading by Madera-Rodriguez defense lawyers took place behind closed doors because classified information was discussed. But in open court, his lawyers disputed much of the government’s thesis.
Kuhn said Madera-Rodriguez’s task was limited to smashing Melgar’s door with a hammer, putting on some music and bringing in two Malian guards who were part of the joke.
Madera-Rodriguez did not hold Melgar back, Kuhn said.
Kuhn also said the government’s case against Madera-Rodriguez was like “a house of cards” based on faulty law enforcement.
For example, Kuhn said Madera-Rodriguez can only be convicted of murder if convicted of burglary, a charge linked to the charge that the men broke into Melgar’s room. But Kuhn said the burglary charge hinged on the alleged crime occurring at night, which he said was gone.
“You don’t have a night, you don’t have a burglary,” Kuhn said. “You don’t have a burglary, you don’t have criminal murder.”
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