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March 31, 2005
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Stars & Stripes, European Edition
WIESBADEN, Germany - A military court Thursday convicted a U.S. Army tank company commander of a lesser criminal charge in connection with the shooting death of a wounded Iraqi last year.
Capt. Rogelio “Roger” Maynulet was found guilty of assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought conviction on a more serious charge of assault with intent to commit murder, which carried a 20-year maximum.
Maynulet, 30, of Chicago, stood at attention as Lt. Col. Laurence Mixon, the head of the six-member panel, read the verdict at the court-martial. The court was to reconvene later Thursday to consider Maynulet's sentence.
Mixon did not give reasons for the ruling, which followed 2½ hours of deliberations.
At the sentencing hearing, Maynulet asked the court for leniency, occasionally pausing and looking down to keep his composure.
“I hope you can take into consideration my service, my attitude and my love for the Army before you make a decision,” Maynulet said. “I respect your decision. I wouldn't want to be in your position. I think you did what you have to do.”
Maynulet's father, Rogelio Maynulet, and his wife, Brooke Maynulet, also took the stand as character witnesses. Several officers who have worked with the defendant in Germany since he left his command in Iraq praised his work.
Maynulet's 1st Armored Division tank company had been on patrol near Kufa, south of Baghdad, on May 21, 2004, when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the Shiite cleric, who led uprisings against U.S.-led forces in Iraq last year.
They chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver.
Maynulet maintained that he shot the gravely wounded Iraqi to end his suffering.
The killing was taped by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft.
In closing arguments earlier Thursday, prosecutor Maj. John Rothwell said that Maynulet “played God” when he shot the wounded driver.
He argued that Maynulet, who was trained in first aid, should not have relied on a medic who said the man was beyond saving and told him “there's nothing I can do.”
“Those five words were enough to make a life and death decision, and he chose to end a life,” Rothwell said. “This combat-trained life saver prescribed two bullets. He didn't call his superiors for guidance, didn't consult with his medic.”
Maynulet said at this week's court-martial that he shot the man to “put him out of his misery.” His lawyers have argued that his actions were in line with the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.
His defense attorney, Capt. Will Helixon, argued that conflicting testimony from neurosurgeons about whether the Iraqi was still alive at the time of the shooting required that Maynulet be acquitted.
Maynulet's command was suspended May 25, but he has remained with the Wiesbaden-based unit.
The U.S. military has referred to the Iraqi driver only as an “unidentified paramilitary member” and has not named al-Sadr directly — instead referring to a “high- profile target” — but relatives named the driver as Karim Hassan, 36, and said he worked for al-Sadr.
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