Airman Faces Retrial in High-Speed Car Crash That Killed 2 Colleagues

A stretch of the autobahn. Lindgren lost control of his BMW M-3 on the A-60 between Spangdahlem Air Base and Bitburg while driving at an estimated 149 mph. (German government photo.)
A stretch of the autobahn. Lindgren lost control of his BMW M-3 on the A-60 between Spangdahlem Air Base and Bitburg while driving at an estimated 149 mph. (German government photo.)

KAISESLAUTERN, Germany — The new trial begins Monday of a Spangdahlem airman whose conviction and prison sentence for negligent homicide were tossed out on a technicality on appeal.

Airman Basic Alan J. Lindgren faces a new round of charges for his alleged role in the deaths of two fellow airmen in a horrific, high-speed car crash on Germany’s autobahn in July 2010.

Killed were Amanda Jotham, 19, and Brandon McDonald, 20, airmen first class who were passengers in Lindgren’s car. Lindgren lost control of his BMW M-3 on the A-60 between Spangdahlem Air Base and Bitburg while driving at an estimated 149 mph, according to evidence presented at his first trial.

Lindgren sustained minor injuries.

At a court-martial in April 2011 at Spangdahlem, Lindgren was convicted of two counts of negligent homicide under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The military judge, Col. Dawn Eflein, sentenced him to 15 months in prison and reduced him in rank from airman first class to airman.

Lindgren had already served out his prison term when, two years after his conviction, the U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the findings and punishment from Lindgren’s 2011 trial.

The April 2013 ruling to dismiss stemmed from an opinion issued in August 2011 by the military’s highest court in another case, base officials at Spangdahlem said in an email.

In U.S. v. Fosler, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held that charges under Article 134 must expressly allege “that the conduct was prejudicial to good order and discipline and/or was service discrediting,” base officials said.

The charges in Lindgren’s case — though complying with the current law at the time — did not include that specific language, base officials said.

The Air Force appeals court said in its opinion in Lingren’s case that “there are very few acts more prejudicial or service discrediting than the unlawful killing of two fellow” airmen, but it ruled — on the basis of the higher court’s subsequent decision — that the charges against Lindgren must specify such.

The new charges against Lindgren for the trial starting Monday do just that, according to the charge sheet.

Lindgren’s Air Force career since his original conviction has been less than illustrious. In December 2012, he was convicted of a litany of drug-related charges, including using marijuana, spice and psilocybin mushrooms, and possessing and wrongful introduction of cocaine onto a military installation.

He was given a bad-conduct discharge, one year in prison and reduced in rank to E-1. Base officials at Spangdahlem said Lindgren completed his second round of confinement and is on appellate, unpaid leave, pending completion of the appeals process from his second trial. The discharge is effective only after the appeals process is completed.

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