Hike sentence

Navy SEAL wins sentence appeal in soldier’s hazing death

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A military appeals court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a U.S. Navy SEAL who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the hazing death of a Green Beret of the U.S. Army while the men were serving in Africa.

Prosecutors did not disclose that a U.S. Marine who testified against the SEAL — and participated in the hazing — asked for leniency in exchange for his testimony, the court ruled. SEAL defense attorneys missed an opportunity to question the Marine about a “potential motive to misrepresent events.”

The United States Navy Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals released the ruling last week, nearly two years after Tony DeDolph received his decade-long sentence.

DeDolph, a Wisconsin native, was a member of the elite SEAL Team 6. He was one of four U.S. service members – two SEALs and two Marines – who have been charged in the death of Staff Sgt. ‘army. Logan Melgar, originally from Texas.

The hazing took place in 2017 while the men were serving in Mali. The charging documents do not indicate why they were there. But US special forces had come to Africa to support and train local troops in their fight against extremists.

The case offered a brief window into how some of America’s most elite military personnel have dealt with grievances outside the law.

DeDolph testified at his 2021 court-martial that the four men were trying to exact revenge on Melgar and teach him a lesson in perceived slights. In particular, some were upset that they had missed a party at the French Embassy in the capital Bamako because Melgar and the others had been separated in traffic.

DeDolph said they plotted an elaborate prank for Melgar known as “tape work”. This included binding Melgar with duct tape, applying a chokehold to temporarily knock him out, and then showing Melgar a video of the incident sometime later.

DeDolph said his role in the prank was to temporarily knock Melgar unconscious by placing him in a martial arts-style chokehold. DeDolph said the “rear naked choke” restricts blood flow in the neck and is used in the military.

“I applied the choke effectively like I did many times in practice,” DeDolph said.

Melgar lost consciousness in about 10 seconds, but didn’t wake up after the usual 30 seconds, DeDolph testified.

“Usually at that point the individual stood up,” DeDolph said. “And he didn’t.”

DeDolph pleaded guilty to manslaughter and hazing, among other charges. A sentencing hearing followed, at which one of the Marines testified on behalf of the government. The appeals court used a synonym to identify the Marine in its decision.

The Marine’s role in the hazing was to lift the mosquito net around Melgar’s bed and bind his arms and legs with duct tape, the appeals court wrote. The Marine offered a detailed account of the assault, including the methods DeDolph used to knock Melgar unconscious.

DeDolph’s attorneys knew the Marine had previously pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and hazing charges, while agreeing to testify against DeDolph, the court wrote. But DeDolph’s lawyers were unaware that the Marine was also asking for less jail time, specifically two years instead of the four he got.

“The fact that (the Marine) sought an additional pardon (…) in exchange for his testimony is clearly information that tended to demonstrate (his) bias and undermined his credibility,” the court wrote. call. DeDolph’s attorneys were denied the opportunity to review the Marine’s potential bias and whether he had “reason for exaggerating his testimony.”

The Marine’s sentence was later reduced from four years’ imprisonment to three years.

“(T)there is a reasonable possibility that the outcome of the trial was affected by the disclosure of the leniency application,” the court wrote.