Stryker soldier says beating made him talk of unit's drug use in Afghanistan

The (Tacoma) News TribuneDecember 9, 2010 

The beating Spc. Justin Stoner took at the hands of seven platoon mates in May sealed his decision to talk with Army investigators about drug use and other possible illegal activity in their Stryker unit, he testified Wednesday.

Stoner said he believes his fellow Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers were trying to silence him after he asked for a transfer to another unit because he didn’t want to be held accountable for their misconduct during their deployment to southern Afghanistan.

“That was their way, but obviously it didn’t work too well,” he said while testifying in a Lewis-McChord courtroom at a pretrial hearing for one of his alleged attackers.

Sgt. Darren Jones, 29, of Pomona, Calif., is charged with assaulting Stoner, shooting at unarmed Afghans during a patrol, participating in a conspiracy to harm those noncombatants and trying to impede the Army’s investigation into Stoner’s complaints.

Prosecutors dropped a charge alleging Jones smoked hashish during his deployment.

Kevin McDermott, Jones’ attorney, argued that Jones was not part of conspiracies to obstruct the investigation into Stoner’s complaints or to hurt Afghan civilians. McDermott acknowledged that Jones was present at those incidents, though he disputed that Jones knew the noncombatants were not a threat to his squad.

Stoner’s complaints triggered an investigation that resulted in misconduct charges against Jones and 11 other members of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Five are accused of murdering Afghan civilians.

Stoner said that Jones kicked and punched him at least six times on May 5 when word got out that he had spoken with a sergeant in his company about his concerns that solders were smoking hashish in his room.

At least six soldiers who entered Stoner’s room that day assaulted him, he said. He remembered that Jones delivered blows to his left side. Stoner, who was a private at the time of the assault, said he distinctly heard Jones’ voice among the group of soldiers who were striking him.

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