RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A Ramstein airman has been acquitted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a former airman from an injury sustained in a New Year’s Day fight.A five-member military panel acquitted Airman 1st Class Franklin Lucas, 27, on Saturday on the charge that stemmed from the death of Chris Matyszyk, a former airman who was living in Germany.Prosecutors had argued during the trial that Lucas, a member of the 86th Aircraft maintenance Squadron, should be held accountable for Matyszyk’s death because his actions helped spur a fight in the early morning hours of Jan. 1.Defense attorneys contended Matyszyk was the aggressor and that Lucas acted in self-defense.Witnesses said during the fight that occurred outside a pub in Landstuhl, Lucas struck Matyszyk, 36, in the face. The witnesses said Matyszyk fell straight back after the punch and lost consciousness. According to medical testimony, he died 12 days later at a Kaiserslautern hospital from a brain injury believed caused by striking his head on the ground.Matyszyk’s supporters gasped when the verdict was read. His father, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Don Matyszyk, abruptly walked out of the courtroom in silence before the jury was dismissed. The elder Matyszyk had traveled from Summerville, S.C., to attend the trial. “It’s ridiculous,” a stunned Carmel Coll, Matyszyk’s fiancée, said after the trial. The two had planned to marry in June.In the courtroom, Lucas’ mother sobbed with joy and embraced her son. She declined to comment on the verdict.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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