Hearing to resume for GI accused of murder
After a six-week delay, a pre-trial hearing involving a U.S. military officer charged with murder in Iraq resumes Wednesday in Germany.
For Army Capt. Rogelio M. Maynulet, the next few days will go a long way toward determining whether he stands a good chance of being exonerated or compelled to stand trial.
If the evidence implicates Maynulet, he faces the prospect of a court-martial, with a life sentence in the balance.
Maynulet is accused of murder and dereliction of duty stemming from the death of an Iraqi man May 21. Army prosecutors say Maynulet unlawfully shot the man near the cities of Najaf and Kufa, south of Baghdad.
At the time of the incident, Maynulet was commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment of the 1st Armored Division. He and members of his unit were searching for Shiite religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, wanted by authorities for his apparent role in the killing of a rival cleric.
Details of the incident are still sketchy, though the Army did issue a statement on July 2.
“The charges stem from an incident in which U.S. forces near Kufa came into contact with a black sedan believed to contain militia forces,” according to a U.S. Central Command news release.
“A chase began, and U.S. forces shot at the vehicle,” the release stated. “The driver and a passenger were wounded. Shortly thereafter, the wounded driver was shot and killed at close range.”
Capt. Will Helixon, Maynulet’s defense attorney, contends that’s not what really happened, especially in regard to the chase and how it all ended, but he declined to go into details.
A few days after the incident, the 29-year-old company commander was suspended. The Army filed charges against Maynulet on June 12. By the end of the month, an Article 32 hearing was convened in Baghdad.
Wednesday’s session at Pioneer Casern in Hanau picks up where a second hearing left off in July. The Article 32 process, akin to a civilian grand jury, will help determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a court-martial.
At the last hearing in Hanau, one of Maynulet’s former commanders, Col. Michael Ryan, testified on behalf of the young officer. He called Maynulet “an exceptional officer,” a calm and steady troop, one destined to become “easily, a brigade commander or higher.”
The hearing was delayed for more than a month because many of the witnesses, having just returned from Iraq, were on or going on leave.
At the end of the Article 32, a hearing officer will weigh the evidence against Maynulet and make a recommendation as to whether the case should proceed to trial.