Fifth Stryker soldier in Afghan killing case faces trial

The (Tacoma) News TribuneFebruary 1, 2011 

The Army will prosecute the fifth and final member of a group of Stryker soldiers who allegedly murdered Afghan civilians during patrols last year, despite an investigation that cited weaknesses in the case against the soldier.

Monday’s announcement is a setback for Spc. Michael Wagnon, 30, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His family had hoped the Army would dismiss charges against him after an investigating officer reviewed the case in November and reported there was little evidence against him.

That report went to Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior general at Lewis-McChord, who determined the Army has enough evidence to proceed with a court-martial.

Wagnon will face charges that he murdered an Afghan civilian during a February patrol, shot at unarmed Afghans in March and participated in conspiracies to harm Afghans. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

“It’s very disappointing and it flies in the face of the recommendation, evidence and common sense,” said Wagon’s attorney, Colby Vokey.

The Army dismissed two other charges from Wagnon’s case. One alleged that he kept a piece of skull from an Afghan corpse; the other accused him of trying to obstruct the Army’s investigation into his platoon’s misconduct by destroying images of Afghan casualties on his computer.

Vokey debunked both of those charges at a pre-trial hearing in November. Wagnon’s platoon mates said the skull fragment he kept came from a camel.

Wagnon is one of 12 soldiers in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division accused of misconduct at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan last year. Three soldiers in the group have already pleaded guilty to crimes during the deployment and agreed to testify against their codefendants.

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