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Congratulations,
Sergeant
Leonardo Treviño!
Exonerated: May 1, 2008

DEFEND OUR  TROOPS ARCHIVES

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1st CAV ARMY SNIPERS
ACCUSED OF MURDER

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Sgt. Leonardo Treviño was acquitted of premeditated murder in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi insurgent.

In March 2008, Spc. John Torres, an Army medic who had been accused of trying to suffocate the insurgent, was acquitted of attempted premeditated murder and dereliction of duty for failing to provide aid.

News coverage

* Soldier Acquitted Of Murder Charges Speaks, KSAT News, San Antonio, May 2, 2008. [Story no longer at original url.]

Acquittal! Jury acquits soldier in shooting death of Iraqi insurgent, Associated Press, May 1, 2008. [Story no longer at original url.]

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military jury Thursday acquitted an Army sergeant of premeditated murder in the death of an unarmed Iraqi insurgent who was killed in a village overrun by al-Qaida operatives.

The family of Sgt. Leonardo Trevino gasped, clapped and sobbed Thursday after the verdict in his court-martial was read. The 31-year-old from San Antonio also was cleared on charges of attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder and three counts of obstruction of justice.

Trevino said he felt betrayed by the soldiers who testified against him but that he held no ill will toward the Army.

"I can stand here and say I'm proud to wear the uniform," he said.

Military prosecutors said in closing arguments that the killing by Trevino last summer in Iraq was unjustified because the insurgent was severely wounded from a gun battle and posed no threat.

Trevino's attorneys said he followed the rules of engagement because he thought the insurgent was reaching for a gun.

"We've got to stop micromanaging how troops on the ground react," defense attorney Richard V. Stevens told jurors. "You're always reacting and you have to, and if you hesitate, you die."

Prosecutors declined to comment after the trial, as did the jurors.

The seven-member jury deliberated for about an hour. The jury's decision did not have to be unanimous; at least two-thirds had to agree on a decision.

After the June firefight in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, the soldiers went into a house and found an insurgent on the floor with about two dozen bullet wounds and a broken arm. Linger reminded jurors of witness testimony that Trevino shot the insurgent in the abdomen, told one soldier to place a weapon by the Iraqi and then told them to say he had been armed.

Several witnesses testified that Trevino told them he shot the insurgent because the man had a gun.

A medic also had testified that Trevino ordered him to suffocate the Iraqi, and when he told his sergeant that the man was still alive, he shot him — this time, fatally.

Stevens said the government only presented one soldier who was actually on the mission and that the soldier's testimony had numerous inconsistencies.

He said the soldiers who reported Trevino didn't come forward until two months after the incident and did so because they were upset with his disciplinary measures. Stevens said they wanted to get rid of him as their leader and had no idea their accusations — which did not include murder — would result in a court-martial.

In March, Spc. John Torres, the Army medic accused of trying to suffocate the insurgent, was acquitted of attempted premeditated murder and dereliction of duty for failing to provide aid.

In another trial in March, Cpl. Justin Whiteman, accused of placing the pistol by the insurgent's body, was acquitted of accessory to attempted premeditated murder and with dereliction of duty.

* Legal victory. Soldier charged with killing insurgent freed from jail, Associated Press, January 31, 2008. [Story no longer at original url.]

* Legal victory. S.A. soldier freed while awaiting trial in death of Iraqi, Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, January 30, 2008.

* Attorney Richard Stevens. Lawyer urges Army: Don't second-guess sergeant, Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, December 12, 2007. [Story no longer at original url.]

FORT HOOD — A government lawyer said Wednesday that testimony proves Sgt. Leonardo Treviño killed a badly wounded al-Qaida insurgent in cold blood and tried to cover up the crime, but a lawyer for the San Antonio soldier said murder charges against him should be dropped.

Wrapping up Treviño's Article 32 hearing, Capt. Scott Linger said Treviño laughed about killing the insurgent and "lied to his company commander," telling him shortly after the shooting that the man had pulled a pistol.

Defense counsel Richard Stevens, a civilian attorney, painted a different picture of the incident. He said a few immature members of Treviño's team distorted the event and that charges should be dismissed.

"This is a battlefield situation that I think needs to remain in the battlefield," he said....

The early morning incident began with a gun battle between Treviño's "small kill team" and three al-Qaida insurgents in a dangerous settlement in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. The team fired hundreds of rounds, killing one of the men. Two others fled. Treviño and three of his soldiers followed a trail of blood to a house and found one of the insurgents lying on the floor, severely wounded.

What happened next is in dispute. The soldiers who were in the room with Treviño have said he fired a round from his M-9 service pistol into the man's abdomen, then ordered a medic, Spc. John Torres, to suffocate him. According to statements from Torres, Treviño, seeing that the man was still breathing, pulled Torres aside and asked if "expediting" the man's death was possible.

"Smothering him I guess. I don't know," Torres replied.

"Do it," Treviño told him, according to the statement.

Torres held his hand over the man's mouth for about 30 seconds, then stopped. In his statement, Torres said Treviño then shot the man in the head.

Also in the room was Cpl. Justin Whiteman, who gave a statement that Treviño ordered him to leave a pistol at the scene and pointed to where to lay it.

According to witness statements, Treviño later laughed about the incident, saying, "The guy just wouldn't die."

Under military guidelines, Treviño and his men should have called for a medical evacuation since the insurgent was "out of the fight," Linger said.

"There was no threat to anyone in that room," he said.

Stevens, however, said there's much more that will surface if the case goes to trial. Others, including a Kurdish translator known as "Jim Bob," gave a statement that the man was reaching for weapons and yelling things like "infidels" and, "You're going to burn in hell."

The Army has based its charges on bits of testimony that were "cherry picked," even though Whiteman, Torres and Pvt. Tristan Miller, who also was in the house that day, have given vague and sometimes contradictory accounts, Stevens said. Miller has already pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty. Whiteman and Torres also face similar charges in the shooting.

Many of the soldiers who served with Treviño, 30, are in their 20s or younger and resent him for the hard-driving approaches that helped him gain a reputation as one of the best sergeants in his platoon, Stevens said.

"These young men had motivations to fabricate," he said.

Stevens said he didn't want to reveal his strategy for defense if the case goes to trial. But he said it's wrong to make assessments inside a courtroom about the decisions his client and other battle-worn troops made in a land where dangers always lurk.

"Now we all sit back in sterile rooms and second-guess."

* Sgt. Leonardo Treviño. Fort Hood soldier charged, Associated Press, December 12, 2007. [Story no longer at original url.]

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP)  A military prosecutor says an Army sergeant should be court-martialed for shooting a severely wounded al-Qaida insurgent.

The prosecutor, Captain Scott Linger, says Sergeant Leonardo Trevino then ordered a medic to suffocate him, then he shot the unarmed man again because "he just wouldn't die.''

Trevino's defense attorney, Richard Stevens, says his client shouldn't be court-martialed because witnesses lack credibility and hold grudges against their squad leader.

The statements came in an Article 32 hearing wrapped up at Fort Hood. The hearing was to determine whether there's enough evidence to take the Trevino case to trial. Trevino faces murder and other charges for alleged June incidents in Iraq.

The 30-year-old San Antonio soldier is accused of the insurgent's murder, then trying to cover it up.

* Sgt. Leonardo Treviño. Hearing ends for US soldier accused of killing an insurgent, Associated Press, December 12, 2007.

* Pvt. Tristan Miller. Sgt shot unarmed Iraqi, soldier says, Angela K. Brown, Associated Press, December 11, 2007.

* Sgt. Leonardo Treviño. Another San Antonio solider charged with murdering an Iraqi, Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, November 1, 2007. [Story no longer at original url.]

For the defense:

Richard Stevens, David  Brash, and Frank Spinner (of the law offices of Stevens & Brash) are each former active duty military lawyers (JAGs). Together, they are a law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of our nation’s military members and to aggressively defending them against all manner of military adverse actions – to include courts-martial, appeals, administrative boards, administrative punishments and other military complaints, investigations, discipline and actions.

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