WIESBADEN ARMY AIRFIELD, Germany — An Army sergeant admitted Tuesday that he lied repeatedly during an investigation into the killing of an unarmed wounded Iraqi because he wanted to protect his commander and himself.

Sgt. Thomas Cassady testified that he previously lied about the number of wounds suffered by the Iraqi man as well as other matters, and had lied 24 times at legal proceedings and to numerous officers because he felt guilty about his role as senior medic in the man’s death.

“I was kind of spazzed out,” Cassady said.

Cassady’s testimony came on the second day of the court-martial of Capt. Roger Maynulet, who is charged with assault with intent to commit murder.

Maynulet has pleaded not guilty, but has not disputed that he shot Karim Hassan Abed Ali al-Haleji twice in the head as the Iraqi lay wounded on the ground after he was hit by U.S. fire during a chase through a Kufa neighborhood.

Maynulet, 30, who faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted, told several soldiers it was a “mercy killing,” according to testimony.

Apparently, the only witness to the shooting was an unmanned drone monitoring the mission, unbeknownst to Maynulet and his unit, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment of the 1st Armored Division.

The drone’s videotape recorded much of the incident and it led to the investigation.

The unit that day, May 21, was to find and stop a black BMW said to contain “a high-value target.”

The BMW sped into view and Maynulet’s Humvee was the first in line to chase it through the neighborhood, unloading M4 and AK-47 fire on it when it made a left turn. The car crashed into a wall.

Prosecutors said the shooting was a criminal act forbidden by the rules of engagement, the law of war and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The defense is arguing that Maynulet’s actions came after Cassady told him the Iraqi man would soon die, and that Maynulet acted out of compassion.

After a year in Iraq, Cassady told the court, he had yet to see a serious head wound on anyone still alive — until he saw the driver of the black BMW.

Cassady said the injured man had blood on his head, was breathing noisily, and, after Cassady took him out of the car, was moving his arm around.

“You didn’t treat the insurgent, despite your duty to do so,” said Capt. Will Helixon, Maynulet’s lead defense lawyer, during a blistering cross-examination. “You made no stabilization efforts; didn’t even take a pulse.

“Despite not doing any of these basic steps, you decided he wasn’t going to make it.”

“Yes sir,” Cassady said.

“You felt guilty, because you didn’t do your job on that dusty street in Kufa,” Helixon said.

Cassady felt guilty, Helixon said, because his beloved commanding officer had “based his decision on your totally inadequate advice. You know Capt. Maynulet did what he did based on your advice.”

“Roger that,” Cassady said.

The prosecution ended its case Tuesday morning. The defense opened its case with numerous letters from former officers — and even Maynulet’s elementary school principal — as well as two Iraqis attesting to what they said was Maynulet’s exemplary character.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

author picture
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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