Court: Article 32 hearing to remain open
The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that an Article 32 hearing for a soldier charged in a fatal stabbing at a nightclub at Mainz-Kastel, Germany, will remain open to the public.
The hearing — the military equivalent to a grand jury — will determine if Pvt. Nestor Velazquez will stand trial for murder.
The Wiesbaden-based soldier is charged with one count of murder and three counts of aggravated assault after a dispute at the Euro Palace disco, on the evening and early morning of April 18-19.
During Velazquez’s Article 32 on June 11, the prosecution asked the investigating officer, Lt. Col. Steve Steininger, to close the proceedings in order for six additional witnesses to testify in private.
After consulting with the convening authority, Col. George Latham, Steininger decided to close the hearing. But Velazquez’s attorneys appealed the decision, and Steininger suspended the hearing until the appeal could be heard.
In its June 21 ruling, the appeals court said the convening authority failed to give “any sufficient specific and substantial reasons” to close the hearing.
Among the reasons the court cited in its ruling was the sexual harassment case against then-Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene C. McKinney.
In that case, the Army announced it was closing McKinney’s Article 32 hearing to the public. But lawyers representing ABC News and other news organizations filed a writ with the Court of Appeals, which determined that the hearing must remain open.
A decision has not been made as to when the Velazquez’s Article 32 hearing will resume, said Hilde Patton, V Corps spokeswoman.