Pubdate: Fri, 03 Dec 2010
Source: Bellingham Herald (WA)
Copyright: 2010 Bellingham Herald
Author: Adam Ashton


Hearing: He testifies against platoon mate

Pfc. Justin Stoner said he knew he was in for a beating when seven of
his Stryker platoon mates showed up at his living quarters in
Afghanistan just days after he raised concerns about drug use in their

"When you go say something like that, word gets around," said Stoner,
a key whistleblower who testified in court for the first time Thursday.

He spoke at a pretrial hearing for Spc. Adam Kelly, a 26-year-old
soldier from Montesano who allegedly participated in the assault on
Stoner in May. Stoner said the soldiers unleashed a torrent of punches
and kicks while they shouted at him, calling him a "rat."

The beating triggered an investigation that resulted in misconduct
charges against 12 of Stoner's platoon mates in the 5th Brigade, 2nd
Infantry Division. Five are accused of murdering civilians and are
awaiting possible trials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Stoner contends the soldiers who assaulted him suspected that his
initial complaint would draw more scrutiny to the platoon and reveal
unjustified killings. That's why his comrades wanted to intimidate him
from speaking with officers, Stoner said.

"Everyone ... was worried it would progress to other things the
platoon had done," he said.

Stoner has refused to testify at Article 32 hearings for several of
the other accused soldiers. On Thursday, it was revealed that he has
an immunity deal that requires him to take the witness stand from this
point forward. He could have been charged with drug use based on a
sworn statement from one of his fellow soldiers.

His testimony is important because two of the soldiers facing murder
charges - Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and Spc. Jeremy Morlock - allegedly
participated in the May assault.

Stoner also had a look at severed fingers Gibbs allegedly took from
Afghan corpses. The private says Gibbs showed them to him when Gibbs
and Morlock returned to Stoner's room a couple hours after the assault.

Gibbs "started off calm and almost polite, saying he's sorry that had
to happen" when he returned carrying something wrapped in cloth,
Stoner recalled.

"He's playing with this cloth while he was doing it and right when
he's done, he just rolls out these fingers and he says, 'I'd hate for
you to wind up like this guy.'"

Prosecutors drew out those threats to argue that the assault on Stoner
was "not a normal fight in the barracks."

"Pvt. Stoner was trying to report misconduct in his platoon and Spc.
Kelly and his platoon mates sought to stop him, and they assaulted
him," prosecutor Capt. Dre Leblanc said.

Stoner testified that Kelly kicked him in the genitals, punched him
and spat in his face.

Kelly has admitted as much in sworn and recorded statements that have
been leaked to the media. He is not among the accused killers.

His attorney, Capt. Scott Crivelli, acknowledged that Kelly
participated in the beating, but argued that Kelly was not a part of a
conspiracy to intimidate Stoner. Without that intent, Crivelli argues
that Kelly should not be punished in the military's highest court -
the general court-martial. Crivelli says Kelly should face a lighter
sentence at what's called a special court-martial.

"It seems to be more of a retribution-type act rather than trying to
impede an investigation," Crivelli said.

Stoner lent some weight to that argument when he distinguished between
the lower-ranking soldiers like Kelly who participated in the assault
and the noncommissioned officers who he said initiated the beating.

They were Staff Sgts. David Bram and Gibbs. Bram is awaiting a
court-martial trial centered on his alleged role in assaulting Stoner.
Gibbs is accused of murdering three civilians and keeping body parts
he collected from Afghan corpses. Commanders have not yet ruled
whether Gibbs will go through a court martial.

Bram and Gibbs "had their full intent," Stoner said. "The rest of the
guys didn't have a clue it would get to that point."

Stoner also said he believes his platoon leaders - Lt. Stefan Moye and
1st Sgt. Justin Ditmer - sanctioned the beating when they disclosed
Stoner's identity as the source of charges that soldiers had been
smoking hashish at the base. Moye has denied sharing Stoner's name
with enlisted soldiers; Ditmer has said he named Stoner when he told
his squad leaders about the allegations. That group included Bram and

Moye and Ditmer "basically said, 'we'll turn our heads'" to an
assault, Stoner said in court.

Neither Moye nor Ditmer faces criminal charges.

Kelly's hearing, which started and ended Thursday, was heard by
investigating officer Maj. Troy Reitter. Lewis-McChord commander Gen.
Curtis Scaparrotti will later determine whether Kelly should face a
court-martial trial.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt