No good deed goes unpunished-SEALS to be court martialed

SEALs charged in alleged assault of detainee

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer

Posted : Tuesday Nov 24, 2009 17:41:46 EST

SAN DIEGO — Three Navy SEALs are facing court-martial for allegedly assaulting and mishandling a detainee they captured in Iraq in September, military officials said.

The three SEALs — Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe and Jonathan Keefe, and SO1 Julio Huertas — will be arraigned Dec. 7 in a military court in Norfolk, Va., said Army Lt. Col. Holly Silkman, a spokeswoman with U.S. Special Operations Command Central.

McCabe is charged with one count each of assault of the detainee, dereliction of duty and making a false official statement, Silkman said. Officials accuse McCabe of “willfully failing to safeguard a detainee,” Silkman said.

Keefe is charge with one count each of dereliction of duty and false official statement; Huertas is accused of dereliction of duty, false official statement and impeding an investigation, she said.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, SOCCent commander, preferred the charges against the SEALs and will serve as the convening authority as the cases proceed to court-martial, tentatively scheduled for mid-January, Silkman said.

None of the SEALs is confined, she added.

The alleged incident happened in Iraq on or about Sept. 1, Silkman said. “The one thing I can’t talk about is this alleged victim,” she said.

No other details about the alleged incident were immediately available.

The SEALs have been assigned military attorneys to defend them in the cases, which will be tried separately as special courts-martial.

One defense attorney said they had refused to accept nonjudicial punishment, administrative actions that some in the military may consider as a admission of guilt.

Neal Puckett, a defense attorney who is representing McCabe, said the SEALs are being essentially charged for allegedly giving the detainee “a punch in the gut.”

They are expected to plead not guilty when they appear at their arraignment. “They are all together and they all maintain that they are innocent of these charges,” said Puckett, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and judge advocate.

The SEALs were on the tail-end of their deployment to Iraq when the alleged incident happened, he said.

Puckett offered no details about the alleged incident, but said that “in a combat environment, the handling of a detainee … these things happen all the time and can easily be justified as maintaining [control of] a detainee.”

McCabe’s special court-martial is slated to begin Jan. 19, he said.

Huertas, 28, is originally from Blue Island, Ill., and enlisted in 1999. He has served in special warfare units since 2002. He has an Iraq Campaign Medal and was advanced in June 2006, Navy records show.

McCabe, 24 is originally from Perrysburg, Ohio, and enlisted in 2003. He served on the Amphibious Assault Ship Belleau Wood before training in special warfare. He was advanced in September 2007, Navy records show.

Keefe, 25, is originally from Yorktown, Va., and enlisted in 2006. He began SEAL training the same year, Navy records show. He was last advanced in June 2008.

Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman in Coronado, Calif., referred all questions about the charges to SOCCent.

The charges were first reported by Fox News, which posted a story on its Web site Tuesday, saying the charges surround the SEALs’ handling of Ahmed Hashim Abed, who is believed to be connected to the 2004 slaying of four U.S. security contractors in Fallujah.

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