Morlock's testimony assailed in Afghanistan 'kill team' case

The (Tacoma) News TribuneJuly 28, 2011 

An Army investigator for the second time has found scant evidence to substantiate the murder charge prosecutors brought against a Stryker soldier who allegedly killed an Afghan civilian in a staged incident last year.

The new report is a boost for Spc. Michael Wagnon, 30, one of five Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers accused of making up a “kill team” during their deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Maj. Michael Liles’ report is especially challenging for prosecutors because he shows clear skepticism that the Army’s main witness can be trusted to tell the truth about the case.

That witness, Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, was sentenced in March to 24 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to murdering three Afghans in 2010.

Morlock was not available to testify when Liles last considered Wagnon’s case in December because Morlock had not concluded his own court-martial.

Morlcok alleges Wagnon joined him and Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs in murdering an Afghan civilian during a February 2010 patrol.

Morlock has given several different descriptions of that incident since he was detained by Army investigators in May 2010. In one statement, he said he wasn’t sure whether Wagnon knew the incident was staged.

“Pvt. Morlock’s inconsistent testimony, sworn statements and videotaped testimony make it difficult to distinguish what is true or false in this case,” Liles wrote.

Liles further noted that at least three witnesses contested Morlock’s account. Staff Sgt. Kris Sprague, Spc. Ryan Mallett and Spc. Corey Moore all said Wagnon was separated from Gibbs and Morlock when the shooting started.

Liles also appeared swayed by testimony from a jailhouse informant who said Morlock told him that Wagnon and another co-defendant were innocent.

Spc. Ronald Washington alleges Morlock wanted to pin some of the blame on Wagnon and Pfc. Andrew Holmes so he could get a better plea deal from prosecutors.

Gibbs and Holmes are awaiting courts-martial in September and early October. Like Wagnon, they deny they knowingly participated in staged killings.

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