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Court-martial advised in alleged fragging

Martinez could get death penalty if found guilty

A former 42nd Infantry Division supply sergeant should face court-martial on charges he killed two of his superior officers earlier this year in Iraq, a U.S. Army investigating officer said Tuesday at the end of a two-day Article 32 hearing in Kuwait.

Testimony at the hearing showed reasonable cause to charge Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez with using a Claymore anti-personnel mine and three hand grenades to kill his company commander and operations officer, Col. Patrick Reinert said Tuesday.

The nonbinding recommendation will be decided upon by Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of Multi-National Forces–Iraq and the convening authority in the case.

“I recommend trial by a general court-martial,” Reinert said, according to accounts from the courtroom at Camp Arifjan.

“There was no evidence that the accused was not mentally responsible at the time of the crimes. There is reasonable grounds to believe he committed the offenses alleged … there is reasonable cause to believe he had the motive and the opportunity to commit these offenses.”

Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen were killed June 7 at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit. The military initially said it was an indirect fire attack, but investigators quickly concluded otherwise.

Martinez, who had reportedly been disciplined and relieved of his duties by Esposito, was arrested a few days after the incident.

Martinez, 37, has five days to challenge the recommendation before it can be finalized by the convening authority. Officials previously have said Martinez is eligible for the death penalty.

The wives of Allen, Esposito and Martinez all attended the Kuwait trial, which was moved from Tikrit in part to accommodate the families’ requests to attend. A special audio link to West Point, N.Y., was established to let other family members follow the proceedings.

At least nine witnesses testified during the two-day hearing, similar to a grand jury proceeding in civilian courts. One witness said Martinez told him of hatred for Esposito and a desire to kill the captain; another testified that the fatal wounds suffered by the two men were not consistent with a mortar or rocket attack.

Prosecutors alleged during the hearing that Martinez set off the Claymore, then threw the grenades to try to make the attack look like an enemy action.

In recommending a general court-martial and possible capital punishment, Reinert cited several aggravating factors, including the use of a mine in a closed space, the state of war extant when the attack occurred and the fact that Martinez specifically targeted his superior officers.

Reinert also recommended Martinez face charges of larceny for removing the grenades and “using them in a personal vendetta,” and a charge of violating Article 134 (General Article), “specifically, prejudice of good order and discipline in the Armed Forces; conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the Armed Forces; and use of weapons of mass destruction (hand grenade/Claymore mine) against a U.S. national abroad.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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