Fort Bragg soldier accused of murdering Afghan waives evidentiary hearing
By PAUL WOOLVERTON | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: March 12, 2019
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — An Army major accused of premeditated murder in the killing of an unarmed Afghan national in 2010 has waived his right to an evidentiary hearing that was scheduled to begin Thursday at Fort Bragg to assess the evidence against him.
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) announced last week that Maj. Mathew Golsteyn agreed to skip an Article 32 hearing in his case. An Article 32 hearing is a trial-like proceeding the military uses to help decide whether a servicemember accused of a crime will be court-martialed. Evidence is presented to an officer who then makes a recommendation to the commanding general on whether to prosecute.
In lieu of the Article 32 hearing, evidence and other materials in the case will be reviewed by Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette, the commanding general of USASOC, for a decision on whether Golsteyn will be court-martialed, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, the public affairs director for USASOC.
In 2010, Golsteyn was a Green Beret captain with the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group and was among the American forces in Marjah, Afghanistan, when he killed the Afghan national. In 2015, Golsteyn was stripped of his Special Forces Green Beret tab and a Silver Star medal and was kicked out of the Army because of the incident.
Last December, the Army pulled Golsteyn back into the service to face the homicide charge.
The Afghan national was suspected of making a bomb that killed two Marines, according to evidence presented at an administrative hearing in 2015 that the Army held to review Golsteyn’s actions and to decide whether he could stay in the service.
The evidence indicated the Afghan was captured and released, and then Golsteyn killed him, buried his body, returned to the grave the next morning and burned the body.
The Army began investigating after Golsteyn, in September 2011, described the killing during a job interview polygraph exam with the Central Intelligence Agency. That polygraph led to the Army’s investigation of Goldsteyn’s actions.
The question that could come before a court-martial jury: Was the killing a legal act of war or was it a murder?
Golsteyn discussed the incident with The Washington Post in an article published in February. He told the Post that he took up an ambush position after the Afghan was released and watched to see whether the Afghan would leave the area.
The Post reported that Golsteyn presumed that if the Afghan walked toward him instead of some other direction, “it meant he was going back to insurgent activities and could be legally targeted.”
Bymer, the USASOC spokesman, said Monday it’s unknown how soon the commanding general will decide whether Golsteyn’s case will proceed to a court-martial.
Fayetteville defense lawyer Kris Poppe is a retired Army officer who was prominent during his military career for representing defendants in high-profile courts-martial. He said Monday it’s not unusual for a defendant to waive an Article 32 hearing.
It tends to happen, Poppe said, if the defendant has received copies of a large amount of the evidence against him or if his legal team has done an extensive investigation of its own.
Poppe, who is not connected to the Golsteyn case, said that in his experience, commanding generals and their staff attorneys typically give the evidence from the prosecution and the defense a deep, detailed examination before deciding whether to order a court-martial for a soldier.