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NAPLES, Italy — A court-martial for a Naples-based sailor charged in the alleged choking of his wife began Monday with the defense telling the jury that the sailor’s service in Iraq traumatized him so much that he temporarily went insane.

Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Flanning, 34, a master-at-arms and military dog handler assigned to Naval Support Activity Naples, pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges of assault consummated by a battery, and aggravated assault with means and force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.

The court-martial is expected to last one week.

Both the prosecution and defense told jurors that the eyes of the husband and wife will each tell a story of horror — only two different tales.

The prosecution will tell jurors of a wife allegedly battered by her husband. The defense will tell of a man possessed by memories of battlefield terror.

Flanning’s defense team of civilian and military lawyers contend the sailor’s service in Iraq as a bomb dog handler while assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division led to a “lack of mental responsibility” for his actions on June 3, which is the military equivalent for a temporary insanity plea.

Guy Womack, Flanning’s civilian defense lawyer, said during opening argument that Flanning’s tour in Iraq traumatized him, turning a “peaceful” man into one who didn’t know right from wrong that night.

By contrast, prosecutor Lt. Richard Federico opened his case by telling the four-man, one-woman jury of officers how they will see evidence of physical abuse and distress in the defendant’s wife, also a Navy sailor.

Flanning faces maximum punishment of 3½ years of confinement, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances if convicted.


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