Court-martial begins for MP who refused to return to Iraq
Stars and Stripes March 6, 2008
HANAU, Germany — The court-martial of a military policeman accused of refusing to go back to Iraq after returning to Germany on emergency leave dragged into the evening Wednesday after the defense rested its case.
Spc. Brian J. Sprague, a member of the 127th MP Company, is also charged with assault and battery.
The military judge, Col. Timothy Grammel, dismissed a charge of disobeying an order after ruling that including it with the missing movement charge caused an “unreasonable multiplication of charges.”
Sprague left Iraq in late July 2007 to attend to family matters in Germany, where his wife and three young children remained during his deployment.
Soon after Sprague returned to Germany, Spc. Matthew Murchison, the soldier who took his place in Iraq, was killed by a roadside bomb.
There was widespread resentment of Sprague after the death, according to defense witnesses.
“I was angry, ma’am, because it shouldn’t have been Murchison,” Spc. Stephanie Anderson, who was in the same platoon with Sprague and Murchison, testified under questioning by defense attorney Capt. Jocelyn Stewart.
Then on Aug. 17, 2007, Sprague and his wife, Loren, got into an argument in their off-post house.
They’d been having a lot of problems, and Sprague “just wanted to talk” it out, grabbed her wrist and tried to make her sit down on the couch, his wife testified.
But, she testified, because of stories she’d heard about post-traumatic stress disorder, she “freaked out” and “overreacted,” she said.
She kicked Sprague, walked to a neighbor’s house and called the military police.
Both were arrested after the dispute.
Less than a week later, Capt. Patrick Hane, rear detachment commander for the 127th, informed Sprague that he would be returning to Iraq.
Sprague appealed to a higher command to keep him in Germany, and his redeployment was delayed by a week.
On Aug. 29, Sprague was again told he was going back to Iraq.
But on Aug. 30, when he was supposed to leave, he told Hane he wasn’t going, Hane said.
Sprague’s wife testified that soldiers in Iraq had said they thought Sprague should have died instead of Murchison, and that those threats had been told to her by her friend.
She told her husband of the comments, she said.
“He was upset. He was uneasy about it. It made him scared.”
The trial is expected to continue into Thursday.