WIESBADEN, Germany — An Army captain convicted in the shooting death of a wounded Iraqi man was dismissed from the service Friday but the military court allowed him to leave a free man.

Capt. Roger Maynulet hugged his lawyers just after his sentence was read. Then he hugged his wife, whose sigh of relief was audible in the courtroom at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.

Maynulet, 30, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for his Thursday conviction on a charge of assault with the intent to commit voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had asked for a three-year prison sentence, while Maynulet’s defense asked for no punishment at all.

“I’m obviously very happy with the outcome,” Maynulet said afterward to reporters. “I’m happy to have my life back.”

But, he said, “It’s bittersweet. It’s not the way I thought I would leave the Army.”

Maynulet was originally charged with murder for twice shooting a wounded Iraqi in the head on May 21. The man, Karim Hassan Abed Ali al-Haleji, was a reputed driver for an aide to a firebrand Shiite cleric then wanted by the United States.

Haleji was hit in the head by gunfire when Maynulet’s unit — Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment of the 1st Armored Division — fired on his BMW during a chase, then shot by Maynulet as he lay wounded, and by some accounts unconscious, on the street.

The charge was reduced to assault with attempt to commit murder before Maynulet’s trial, and the court-martial panel found him guilty of a still lesser charge, one that took into account a sudden “passion.”

The six-member jury panel — five men and a woman ranking from major to lieutenant colonel — deliberated for more than three hours on the sentence, longer than it took to decide his guilty verdict.

Prosecutors had asked for Maynulet to be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, arguing, as they had throughout the trial, that his claims of “mercy killing” were false; that he’d shot Haleji, referred to in court as a “paramilitary member,” because he was a messy inconvenience during Maynulet’s mission.

“Two bullets in the head is not mercy,” said Capt. Dan Sennott. “Mercy would have been to treat that Iraqi.”

But Maynulet, once “destined for greatness,” his lawyers told the panel Friday morning, had been punished enough. The dishonor of his verdict and the fact that he’s now a felon should spare Maynulet from imprisonment or dismissal from the Army, Capt. Will Helixon said.

Helixon reminded jurors of the many witnesses, including enlisted soldiers, fellow and superior officers, friends from college and a couple of Iraqi men who all testified, or wrote in letters to the court, that Maynulet was outstanding in nearly every way. They said he had started public works projects and engendered trust with Iraqis while also helping to capture 1,000 insurgents. He’d done so much good, Helixon said of Maynulet, until this one day in Iraq.

“One bad decision, one wrong decision,” Helixon said. “He was wrong, but he has a history of doing the right thing.”

The last piece of evidence the defense presented was a video montage of Maynulet and his loved ones throughout his life. As the courtroom lights were dimmed, the video began, with pictures of Maynulet as a baby, and on up through his childhood, youth, marriage and deployment to Iraq. There was no narration, just somber piano music by the Irish artist Enya. The tape lasted less than 10 minutes, and the defense played it twice, once Thursday and again Friday.

Maynulet’s shooting of Haleji came to the authorities’ attention because it was captured on videotape by an unmanned drone monitoring the mission.

Maynulet did not report the shooting as a mercy killing and he made no report to his superiors, other than that one Iraqi was killed in action.

He later told soldiers who had been at the scene that he had shot the man to “put him out of his misery,” according to testimony. None of his soldiers reported the incident, and one sergeant testified at this week’s trial that he’d lied in earlier legal proceedings to protect himself and Maynulet. Another sergeant, testimony showed, burned soldiers’ statements about the incident after an investigation had begun.

Maynulet’s case will undergo a standard review by Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division. Dempsey could potentially reduce Maynulet’s sentence — rescind Maynulet’s dismissal — but he could not increase the sentence, according to military statutes.

The 1st AD declined to comment on the outcome of the case, said Maj. Mike Indovina, a division spokesman.

Prosecutors also declined comment.

Maynulet said he planned to spend his immediate future relaxing and spending time with his family. “When I get back to the States, I have a lot of people to visit and thank for their support.”

He said he still didn’t know if he’d made the right decision when he backed up a few feet and fired his M4 at Haleji, a father of seven according to media reports. “I can’t say whether I’d do the same thing again,” he said.

Asked what advice he might give troops in combat in Iraq, Maynulet said: “Do your best to, number one, treat every Iraqi as a human being; use your training to provide them every opportunity at enjoying their lives and contributing to the new Iraq.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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