Former Special Forces soldier, once lauded as a hero, faces murder charge
By DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: December 14, 2018
A former Special Forces soldier once lauded as a hero of the Afghanistan war was notified Thursday that he faces a charge of premeditated murder in connection with the 2010 killing of a suspected Taliban bombmaker, according to the veteran's attorney and an Army spokesman.
A forthcoming Article 32 hearing will assess the evidence against former Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn and determine if the case should go to trial, said Phillip Stackhouse, the attorney. Golsteyn has been investigated by the military since 2011, when he allegedly said he had killed the man. The admission came during a polygraph test he took while applying for a job at the CIA, according to Army documents.
Army Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for Army Special Operations Command, confirmed the charge was read to Golsteyn. A hearing has not yet been scheduled, Bymer said.
The prosecution marks the latest twist in the fall of the soldier. It also comes amid a string of other cases in which Special Operations veterans are accused of carrying out serious crimes, including a Navy SEAL who has been charged with murder in the alleged execution of an unarmed Islamic State militant in Iraq and two SEALs and two Marine Raiders who have been charged in the murder of a Special Forces soldier in Mali.
Stackhouse has maintained that Army investigators exaggerated what Golsteyn said in the CIA job interview, and indicated Thursday he and Golsteyn will fight the charge.
Golsteyn, a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, led a team from the 3rd Special Forces Group in the Battle of Marja in 2010, earning a Silver Star for his valor.
On Feb. 20, 2010, he repeatedly braved enemy fire after watching a Taliban sniper nearly hit a nearby Marine, launching a mission to kill the enemy marksman and coordinating numerous airstrikes, according to a military summary of his actions.
Two days earlier, two Marines — Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary, 27, and Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson, 19 — who were working with Golsteyn's unit were killed by improvised explosives. According to Army documents obtained by The Washington Post, Golsteyn later recounted during the CIA job interview that he and his soldiers began searching homes nearby afterward and eventually found materials needed to make bombs like the one that had killed the Marines.
Golsteyn said that they brought the suspected bombmaker back to their base and that the man unexpectedly crossed paths with an Afghan tribal leader with whom Golsteyn's team was working. When the leader expressed fear for his life, Golsteyn grew concerned about the consequences of letting the suspected insurgent go, Army documents said. He is alleged to have then shot the Taliban fighter.
"CPT Golsteyn stated he had no qualms about what he did because he couldn't have lived with himself if [the suspected bombmaker] killed another Soldier or Marine," an Army investigator's summary of Golsteyn's polygraph test said.
Army investigators closed an investigation of potential murder and conspiracy charges in 2014, finding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. But Golsteyn nonetheless was stripped of the Silver Star, and a panel of Army officers in June 2015 decided that he should be separated from the military and issued a letter of reprimand for demonstrating conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Golsteyn kept a low profile until October 2016, when he granted a Fox News interview and acknowledged that he had killed a Taliban bombmaker who had been held as a detainee. He said that letting him go would have meant he could later target Afghans who were helping U.S. troops.
The Army reopened its investigation two months later.