Airman charged with 2022 insider attack on US base in Syria found not guilty of all charges
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2023
An Air Force noncommissioned officer accused of detonating bombs on a U.S. base in Syria last year was cleared of all charges by a military jury on Wednesday, Air Force officials said.
The jury found Tech. Sgt. David D. Dezwaan Jr. not guilty of charges levied against him last year after an eight-day court-martial at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where he had been stationed with the 75th Air Base Wing, according to an Air Force statement issued Thursday. Dezwaan — an explosive ordnance disposal technician — had faced charges of dereliction of duty, destroying military property, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault after military officials accused him of being involved in an April 2022 bombing at Syria’s Green Village base. The attack injured four American service members.
Air Force officials arrested Dezwaan in June and held him in pretrial confinement at a jail near Hill AFB. The service announced in August that it had charged Dezwaan with the series of crimes based on an Army Criminal Investigation Division and Air Force Office of Special Investigations probe of the April 7 bombing on the base in eastern Syria, where Dezwaan was deployed.
Shortly after the not guilty verdict was returned Wednesday, Dezwaan was released from Weber County Jail in Ogden, Utah, where he was “held in a cell 23 hours a day,” said Phil Clay, a civilian attorney who worked on Dezwaan’s defense. The panel of military jurors, which included three enlisted members and five officers, found the airman not guilty after about six hours of deliberation, Clay said.
Dezwaan “is happy and relieved to be back with his family, friends, and his many supporters,” Clay wrote Thursday in an email.
Dezwaan enlisted in the Air Force in 2007 and has received the Joint Service Achievement Medal as well as multiple service-level awards, according to the Air Force Personnel Center. He earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal for engaging in a firefight with enemy fighters while deployed with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2009.
A top Air Force general acknowledged Dezwaan’s acquittal in a statement.
"I am grateful for the close collaboration with the leadership teams at Air Force Materiel Command and Hill Air Force Base over the duration of this case,” Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, Air Forces Central commander, said in the statement Thursday. “We appreciate the efforts of everyone involved and continue to trust the Air Force's judicial process.”
Pentagon officials initially blamed enemy rocket fire for the April 7 attack on Green Village, which has been sporadically hit with enemy fire in recent years. Days later, U.S. military officials said they had discovered evidence that explosive devices had been intentionally placed in an ammunition storage room and a shower area on the post, suggesting an insider attack.
Green Village is a key U.S. base in Syria, just east of Euphrates River and adjacent to major oil fields under control of American-backed Syrian Defense Forces. The base houses several hundred U.S. troops who remain in Syria to train their SDF partners, who have continued to fight the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist group that once controlled vast swaths of Syria and Iraq.
The Air Force made little information public about evidence that the service claimed linked Dezwaan to the bombing after his arrest. Clay said Thursday that much of the evidence and testimony in the case had been classified “Secret,” shielding the public from several court sessions prior to and during the court-martial.