Soldiers responsibile for slaughter get court martialed


According to the Globe & Mail’s website:

A 22-year-old soldier accused of taking a lead role in a brutal plot to murder Afghan civilians faces a military trial Wednesday in a case that involves some of the most serious criminal allegations to arise from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and one count of illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years, said Geoffrey Nathan, one of his lawyers.

His client is one of five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Stryker Brigade charged in the killings of three unarmed Afghan men in Kandahar province in January, February and May 2010. Mr. Morlock is the first of the five men to face a trial, known in the military as a court-martial — which Mr. Nathan characterized as an advantage.

“The first up gets the best deal,” he said by phone Tuesday, noting that even under the maximum sentence, Mr. Morlock would serve no more than eight years before becoming eligible for parole.

According to a copy of the plea agreement, Mr. Morlock has agreed to testify against his co-defendants. In his plea deal, Mr. Morlock said he and others slaughtered the three civilians knowing that they were unarmed and posed no legitimate threat.

He also described lobbing a grenade at the civilian in the January incident while another soldier shot at him, and then lying about it to his squad leader.

The court-martial comes days after a German news organization, Der Spiegel, published three graphic photos showing Mr. Morlock and other soldiers posing with dead Afghans. One image features Mr. Morlock grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by its hair.

Army officials had sought to strictly limit access to the photographs due to their sensitive nature. A spokesman for the magazine declined to say how it had obtained the pictures, citing the need to protect its sources.

Mr. Morlock told investigators the murder plot was led by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Montana, who is also charged in the case. Mr. Gibbs maintains the reasons behind the killings were legitimate.

Mr. Nathan said Mr. Morlock’s mother and hockey coach are among the witnesses who might testify on his behalf in court. He indicated the defence would argue that a lack of leadership in the unit contributed to the killings.

“He’s really a good kid. This is just a bad war at a bad time in our country’s history,” Mr. Nathan said. “There was a lack of supervision, a lack of command control, the environment was terrible. In his mind, he had no choice.”

After the January killing, platoon member Spc. Adam Winfield, of Cape Coral, Florida, sent Facebook messages to his parents saying that his fellow soldiers had murdered a civilian and were planning to kill more. Mr. Winfield said his colleagues warned him not to tell anyone.

Mr. Winfield’s father alerted a staff sergeant at Lewis-McChord, which is south of Seattle, but no action was taken until May, when a witness in a drug investigation in the unit also reported the deaths.

Mr. Winfield is accused of participating in the final murder. He admitted in a videotaped interview that he took part and said he feared the others might kill him if he didn’t.

Also charged in the murders are Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho, and Spc. Michael Wagnon II of Las Vegas.

Seven other soldiers in the platoon are charged with lesser crimes, including assaulting the witness in the drug investigation, drug use, firing on unarmed farmers and stabbing a corpse.

Afghan civilians slaughtered for sport


 

 

US Soldiers pose with their victims’ bodies

As reported by the U.K. Guardian’s Jon Boone:

The face of Jeremy Morlock, a young US soldier, grins at the camera, his hand holding up the head of the dead and bloodied youth he and his colleagues have just killed in an act military prosecutors say was premeditated murder.

Moments before the picture was taken in January last year, the unsuspecting victim had been waved over by a group of US soldiers who had driven to his village in Kandahar province in one of their armoured Stryker tanks.

According to testimony collected by Der Spiegel magazine the boy had, as a matter of routine, lifted up his shirt to reveal that he was not hiding a suicide bomb vest.

That was the moment Morlock, according to a pre-arranged plan, threw a grenade at the boy that exploded while other members of the rogue group who called themselves the “kill team” opened fire.

They would later tell military investigators that the boy, a farmer’s son, had threatened them with the grenade.

The pictures include a similar photograph of a different soldier posing with the same victim and a photograph of two other civilians killed by the unit.

There was no sign on Monday of the anticipated public outrage. But withAfghanistan on holiday for the Persian new year celebrations, and media outlets initially unable to get hold of the images, anger may yet build.

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, recently confided to officials that he feared it might trigger the same kind of scandal as that at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where images of prisoners being abused by US soldiers sparked anti-American protests.

For weeks the US government has been working to pre-empt any outrage, with top officials, including the US vice president Joe Biden, in talks with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Despite being a setback in the propaganda war between the western coalition and its insurgent enemies, Nato will be relieved that for the time being only a tiny sample of a total collection of roughly 4,000 images and video clips have found their way into the public domain.

The publication of the photos will also mark the ultimate disgrace of the group of young US soldiers, who are currently facing military justice for killing innocent civilians for sport and mutilating their bodies by cutting off fingers and ripping out teeth to keep as trophies.

Morlock has turned on his former colleagues, agreeing to testify against them in return for a reduced jail sentence. Some of the activities of the group are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. Morlock has told investigators that Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs was the ringleader. In videotaped evidence, he has said Gibbs would pick out a possible target with a comment such as: “You guys wanna wax this guy or what?”

Gibbs, if found guilty, could receive a life sentence.

Hans-Ulrich Stoldt, a spokesman for Der Spiegel, said the magazine had other, more graphic photos.

“We published three but not others, and we even pixilated those we did print so that the victims could not be identified,” Stoldt said. “We needed to document [the accusations] in some form, and were as restrained as possible.”

Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 2


Probably the most perplexing issue that was mentioned was transparency, which has come up repeatedly since the beginning of the race. This is one topic that isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

The disagreement started back in May when Donoghue challenged Doherty to post a list of donors on his website. Though it is hard to tell precisely when each candidate posted these lists, both campaigns seem to claiming that they posted their list first. In fact, today the Doherty campaign issued a press release applauding the Donoghue campaign for listing their donors online.

What could be of interest to the voters is not when the lists were posted, but from where the donations originated. Donoghue’s list, which can be linked to at the top of her home page, is nine pages long and appears to list over 350 donors. Of the listed donations, all which look to be individual contributions, a fair amount come from outside the district. The list that Doherty posted, which can be found on his contributions page, looks to contain over 300 individual donations. Like Donoghue, he too is receiving donations from outside the district.

In the end, this is going to be a race about nuances. Both candidates have similar stances on the issues, but their approach to the topics are somewhat different. If voters want a candidate to take a big leadership role, then the district could lead towards Donoghue. Or the district could lean more towards Doherty if voters want a highly collaborative candidate.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 1


Tuesday’s debate between Chris Doherty and Eileen Donoghue, both Democrats from Lowell, was surprisingly fair to both candidates. Radio station WCAP, or 980 AM, allowed both Doherty and Donoghue equal time to respond to the questions though both occasionally exceeded the allotted time. This was the first of several debates that has been scheduled before the primary.

On most of the issues, both candidates gave similar, if not identical, answers to the questions they were asked. On the issue of illegal immigration, both candidates went on the record as not supporting illegal immigration. Both stated that they would enforce current laws. In regards to the recent $35 million loan that went to Lawrence, both candidates expressed support as it included safeguards to ensure that the Commonwealth was paid back.

Both candidates spoke out against allowing cities and towns raising local taxes above Proposition 2 ½ allowances. This is an important issue in light of the state reducing local aid by 4%, which means that cities and towns will need to find creative ways to solve their budget problems.

However, Doherty and Donoghue did not completely see eye to eye on every issue.

When the candidates were asked whether or not they supported Patrick’s recent CORI reform bill, Doherty said he doesn’t support the legislation, while Donoghue’s answer wasn’t as straightforward. Donoghue seems to support some, but not all, of the provisions as she claimed her response wasn’t exactly a yes or no answer.

When asked about what they would do to stimulate the economy, Donoghue stressed the importance of helping to lower health care costs for small businesses and that state regulations are tough on small businesses. Doherty talked about promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, which comprise the STEM program.

To keep reading, click here.

First Doherty-Donoghue debate on 8/16


In the race for the 1st Middlesex district, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) will face off in their first debate tonight.

The debate is scheduled to take place today in Lowell. It is to be aired on radio station 980 AM from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Be sure to tune in as it is bound to get very interesting very quickly.

Both candidates have slightly different stances on the issues, so tonight will be the first chance for voters to discover what makes each candidate unique. So far, both are courting small business owners in an effort to win their vote. To that end, Doherty would likely support measures that would allow small businesses to delay payment of their filing fees in order to help them get off the ground. Donoghue is slightly more focused on helping local businesses by working with small businesses to drive down their costs associated with health insurance. In this sense, Doherty seems to follow more of a hands off approach (he seems to prefer small businesses work together on their own to increase competition), whereas Donoghue appears to take a more proactive role.

Doherty fundraiser on 8/12


Tomorrow night will see the Chris Doherty campaign hold a large fundraiser in Lowell in order to keep drumming up support for the candidate. As the days wind down to September 14th, the state’s primary, Chris Doherty’s campaign is promoting seemingly endless events.

The fundraiser is to take place in downtown Lowell at Hookslide Kelly’s on Merrimack Street from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Of the confirmed guest list, many appear to have some connection to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The university, which is also known as UMASS Lowell or ULowell, is one of Doherty’s (D-Lowell) alma maters. He has also graduated from Suffolk Law School.

Though Doherty enjoys widespread support, many of his supporters are from the university. Several months ago students from ULowell organized a rally for Doherty at Brew’d Awakening, a local coffee shop. Support for Doherty overwhelmed the small business as more than 100 people, mostly students, crowded inside and lined the street in order to speak with the candidate.

The event is open to the voters living within the 1st Middlesex district. For those who are interested in attending, the campaign requests be emailed to chrisdohertyforsenate@gmail.com or to call 978-656-9982.