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QUANTICO MARINE CORPS BASE, Va. — The judge in the court-martial of Staff Sgt. Christopher VanGoethem refused a request Monday by the Marine’s defense team that the court toss out the charges of negligent homicide and adultery.

VanGoethem’s chief defender, Marine Maj. Phillip Stackhouse, argued that none of the witnesses brought in to testify against VanGoethem actually saw Romanian musician Teofil Peter at the scene of the Dec. 4, 2004, fatal traffic accident.

VanGoethem, 32, is former commander of the Marine security detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania.

In addition to negligent homicide, VanGoethem is accused of adultery, obstructing justice, and making false official statements.

Moments after the defense rested, Stackhouse made a “motion for a finding of not guilty” for both the negligent homicide and adultery findings.

Such motions are based on the assertion that the prosecution hasn’t presented enough evidence to prove its case, according to Marine Lt. Col. Kirk Kumagai, acting deputy staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.

It’s up to the judge, in this case, Marine Lt. Col. Mark McConnell, to decide if the defense is correct and dismiss the charge the motion applies to, Kumagai told Stars and Stripes during an interview last week.

For the negligent homicide charge, Stackhouse argued that “there was no evidence presented at all that anybody was even in that taxicab, let alone Mr. Peter.”

Examples of witnesses the prosecution could have presented but did not, Stackhouse contended, include a Romanian police officer who was on the scene of the accident, or the firefighter who helped free Peter’s body from the wreckage, or the ambulance driver.

“There could be stronger evidence” to show Peter was in the cab, McConnell said after hearing Stackhouse.

“However, the court finds the necessary inferences [that Peter was in the cab] to be rooted in the testimony [and] the motion is denied.”

The judge also denied Stackhouse’s motion to dismiss the adultery charge.

Stackhouse argued that the prosecution had failed to show that the alleged affair had resulted in discredit to the Marine Corps or was “prejudicial to good order and discipline.”

McConnell’s decisions mean that it will be up to the seven-member board hearing the case against VanGoethem to decide the Marine’s guilt or innocence.


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