Courts & Crime

Appeals court upholds murder conviction of USMC master sergeant

Former Marine Corps Master Sgt. Nathaniel Cosby was sentenced to life in prison for the unpremeditated murder of Ivanice "Ivy" Harris in 2013. An appeals court recently upheld Cosby's conviction.
Former Marine Corps Master Sgt. Nathaniel Cosby was sentenced to life in prison for the unpremeditated murder of Ivanice "Ivy" Harris in 2013. An appeals court recently upheld Cosby's conviction.

The Marine Corps explosives specialist could not disarm himself.

Drunk and combat-stressed, Master Sgt. Nathaniel L. Cosby killed an escort he met well after midnight. By then he had been drinking, he said, for 10 hours straight.

Now, Cosby will spend years in prison following a military court’s rejection of the appeal of his unpremeditated murder conviction for the killing of a Portland, Ore.-based prostitute named Ivy.

The fate of Ivy’s boyfriend and pimp, an aspiring rapper named Mark “Meezilini Da Bank’Roll” Miles, Jr., has likewise been newly settled, with his sentencing Wednesday to three years in prison on a sex trafficking charge. All that’s left is the hardest part, as loved ones cope with several lost or wounded lives.

“My family is not full without my dad home,” Miles’ young son, Mark A. Miles III, wrote the sentencing judge.

Cosby, too, is a married father, of four children. Ivy, whose formal name was Ivanice Harris, was not a mother, but family members have said she was pregnant when she died in May 2013 at the age of 29. She is survived by her father, mother and sister, among others.

The appellant was unable to give a blow-by-blow description of the struggle, describing the scene as ‘chaos.’

U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

Ivy Harris was visiting Hawaii to celebrate her birthday when she encountered Cosby at about 3:45 in the morning of May 16 outside a Waikiki bar named Kelley O’Neil’s. They went to a hotel together. Cosby, though saying his memory was fragmented, testified that Harris died when he choked her to stop her from cutting him with a knife.

“I don’t know if I’d qualify it as an attack,” Cosby testified, court records show. “I just know she cut me.”

After Harris died, Cosby put her body in a plaid duffel bag and hid it amid tall grass in the countryside. Her remains were found several days later.

On Aug. 31, without fanfare, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Cosby’s murder conviction and life sentence.

Represented by Erlanger, Ky.-based attorney C. Edward Massey as well as Navy defense attorneys, Cosby had argued in part that the life sentence was too harsh considering his 16-plus years of Marine Corps service, his multiple combat deployments as an explosives ordinance disposal specialist and his diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

The three-judge appellate panel unanimously rejected Cosby’s claim.

“The fact (that Cosby) is a father and husband with an impressive record of military service only makes the circumstances of this case more tragic,” Judge Michael Holifield wrote.

In its 12-page decision, the appellate court likewise rejected Cosby’s argument that the trial judge improperly allowed military prosecutors to inflame emotions by presenting what was described as “a twelve-minute video montage containing 98 photos of the victim accompanied by sentimental music.”

The appellate panel countered that Cosby’s original trial attorney had forfeited the issue by failing to object at the time of the sentencing hearing.

We are satisfied that justice is done and that the appellant received the punishment he deserved.

U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

On Friday, Massey said in an interview that he would be meeting soon with Cosby at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks Leavenworth in Kansas, and that he expects to seek review of the life sentence and other issues at the higher-level U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

“This is the most several penalty possible for unpremeditated murder,” Massey noted.

Parole, or eventual clemency, are possible under Cosby’s current sentence.

Eight months after Harris’s death, Miles and seven other Portland-area men were charged with sex trafficking. Miles pleaded guilty last March, leading to his sentencing on Wednesday.

“He soon became a part of the family,” Ivy Harris’s sister, Ivesha, wrote. “I found myself calling him my brother. After everything that has (happened) he is still my brother.”