Soldier in alleged Stryker 'kill team' gets plea agreement

Tacoma News TribuneAugust 1, 2011 

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who raised the first alarms about an alleged Stryker “kill team” in Afghanistan has struck a plea agreement with the Army that will send him to prison for participating in a May 2010 murder.

The Army and defense attorneys will not release the terms of Spc. Adam Winfield’s plea agreement at this point, Army I Corps spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt said. They’ll be revealed Friday at the 23-year-old soldier’s court-martial.

Winfield, of Cape Coral, Fla., admitted to Army investigators last year that he joined two soldiers in killing a civilian during a patrol in southern Afghanistan. His attorney has been seeking a pre-trial agreement for the past year to reduce Winfield’s prison sentence from a mandatory minimum of life in prison.

He and four other soldiers came home early from their deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division facing charges that they murdered three Afghans in combat-like scenarios. Seven others from their platoon were charged with lesser crimes.

If his plea agreement holds up in court, Winfield would be the eighth conviction in the Army’s investigation into his platoon. He’d be the second soldier to reach a plea agreement after confessing to participating in a murder, and he’d be in position to provide crucial testimony against the remaining defendants.

Winfield cast himself as an unwilling participant in the war crimes after he was detained last year. He told Army investigators that he feared alleged “kill team” ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs would hurt him or his family if he talked about the murders.

Gibbs, 26, is awaiting an October court-martial. He denies participating in staged killings.

Winfield told his father in February 2010 over Facebook that soldiers in his platoon had killed a young farmer that January and that they were plotting more murders.

“Pretty much the whole platoon knows about it,” Winfield wrote to his father. “It’s OK with all of them pretty much. Except me. I want to do something about it. The only problem is I don’t feel safe here telling anyone.”

Christopher Winfield called Lewis-McChord to relay his son’s fears, but the sergeant who took the message did not act on it, according to an Army investigation.

Defense attorneys for the remaining “kill team” defendants have been anticipating that Winfield would reach an agreement in exchange for his testimony.

At recent hearings, one of Winfield’s platoon mates testified that he overheard Winfield and murderer-turned-Army witness Pvt. Jeremy Morlock plot to shift blame for their crimes onto high-ranking sergeants while they prepared for interviews with Army investigators in Afghanistan.

Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, pleaded guilty in March to helping murder three Afghans. Morlock received a 24-year sentence with the possibility of parole instead of life in prison.

Morlock’s testimony so far has been unconvincing to investigators and jury panelists who have watched him on the witness stand. But Winfield could back up Morlock’s account of the May 2010 killing, which Winfield and Morlock claim took place after Gibbs selected a victim and ordered them to shoot at the civilian.

Prosecutors say Gibbs threw a grenade at the Afghan and then placed a Russian-style explosive near the body to make it appear that the victim was a threat to American soldiers.

“We did as Staff Sgt. Gibbs directed,” Winfield told investigators last year. “Staff Sgt. Gibbs told everyone to take cover and get ready to shoot him. Staff Sgt. Gibbs threw the grenade. A big cloud of dust formed and myself and (Pvt.) Morlock fired into the dust where the local national had been kneeling.”

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