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U.S. Army tank commander on trial described as "tremendous soldier"

U.S. Army tank commander on trial described as "tremendous soldier"

Associated Press

WIESBADEN, Germany - A U.S. Army tank commander on trial in the fatal shooting of an unarmed, wounded Iraqi was described Tuesday by defense witnesses as "a tremendous soldier" and a man who cared about the Iraqi people.

Capt. Rogelio Maynulet faces a charge of assault with intent to commit murder in the May 21, 2004, killing near Kufa, south of Baghdad. Prosecutors say he violated the Army's rules of engagement by shooting the Iraqi while he was unarmed and injured.

Maynulet, 30, has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

One of Maynulet's superiors during his tour in Iraq said he was one of the "top three" of roughly 37 officers he oversaw at that time, describing him as "a tremendous soldier."

Col. Bradley W. May told the court in written testimony read aloud Tuesday that, while he agreed in principle against firing on the wounded, each case must be considered individually.

"To make that determination, we have to look at all the facts," May said in his statement. "It may be that some make it not as easy to determine as we would all like."

Film from a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft showed the outline of a soldier in a helmet and battle gear, identified by a witness as Maynulet, aiming a weapon at an Iraqi man lying on the ground, followed by a flash.

The man on the ground appeared to be waving his right arm before the shot. Several seconds later, he appeared to twitch as though hit again.

Defense attorneys at the court-martial maintain that Maynulet, convinced the man would not live, shot him to end his suffering.

Earlier Tuesday, a U.S. Army medic testified he had pulled the wounded Iraqi from a car that had crashed following a chase, but then failed to treat a severe head wound, instead telling Maynulet he would not live.

"You ignored him because you were freaked out, you told him (Maynulet) he's going to die?" defense lawyer Capt. Will Helixon asked the medic.

"Yes, sir, that's correct, sir," replied Sgt. Thomas Cassady.

Cassady said he had spent about one minute with the man, failing even to take his pulse or check his breathing. Asked why he did not treat him, Cassady said: "I spazzed out at that instant."

In addition, Cassady conceded that he had lied during Maynulet's Article 32 hearing - the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury investigation - giving testimony about injuries the man had not suffered because he felt guilty about the incident.

"You felt guilty, that it was your fault because you didn't do your job," Helixon said.

Cassady responded: "That's correct, sir."

"You felt you should be the one in trouble," the defense attorney said.

"Correct," Cassady replied.

Maynulet's company had been on patrol when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the cleric. They chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver.

In further testimony Tuesday, two Iraqis who worked with Maynulet during his deployment to Iraq described him as compassionate and spoke of his helpfulness to civilians and Iraqi soldiers training for the civilian defense corps.

"Capt. Maynulet has compassion toward the Iraqi people," Maj. Yehay Haider, said in written testimony read before the court. "Capt. Maynulet cares for the Iraqis."

Such testimony plays an important role in a court-martial, where the six-member panel - the equivalent of a civilian jury - must also weigh whether the actions of the accused damaged the Army's reputation.

Maynulet's command was suspended May 25, but he has remained with his Wiesbaden-based unit.

The U.S. military has referred to the Iraqi driver only as an "unidentified paramilitary member," but relatives named him as Karim Hassan, 36. The family does not dispute that he was working for al-Sadr.

The trial is to continue Wednesday.

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