Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sgt. Alberto Martinez was acquitted of murder on 4 December at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in the 2005 bombing deaths of two superiors in Iraq, triggering loud outbursts and gasps from the slain officers' families.

A military jury found Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez not guilty on two counts of premedidated murder in the deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, of Milford, Pa. Both officers were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated in a window of their room at a U.S. military base in Iraq in June 2005.

"He slaughtered our husbands and that's it?" yelled Allen's widow, Barbara Allen, moments after the verdict was read. Someone else shouted out that Martinez was a "murdering son of a bitch" before the judge quickly ordered the courtroom to be cleared.

The 14-member jury spent two days deliberating following a six-week trial at Fort Bragg, during which Martinez chose not to testify. The New York Army National Guard Soldier could have faced the death penalty if he had been convicted.

Martinez, 41, of Troy, N.Y., was the first Soldier from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to have been accused of killing a direct superior, a crime known as "fragging" during the Vietnam war. All three were members of the 42nd Infantry Division.

Witnesses had testified that Esposito and Martinez were at odds because the officer thought Martinez was lax in his operation of the unit's supply room.

Before reaching a verdict, military jurors spent several hours Thursday reviewing the recorded testimony of trial witnesses, including a sergeant who said she had delivered explosives to the supply room Martinez oversaw shortly before the bombing.

Prosecution witness Staff Sgt. Amy Harlan said she delivered ammunition and Claymore mines to Martinez's supply room about a month before the fatal bombing. Harlan said she neither received nor requested a receipt documenting who took the equipment, a usual military practice.

Sgt. 1st Class Ashvin Thimmaiah's testimony also was reviewed. He said Esposito asked him for a list of "potential candidates to take over the supply room" the day before he was killed.

Staff Sgt. David Wentzel, in testimony recorded in October, said Martinez "seemed unconcerned" moments after the fatal blast.

Wentzel said he assumed Martinez was shell-shocked because he didn't respond when he yelled for Martinez to take cover. Wentzel said he jumped up and pulled Martinez to the shelter of a building.

"I was expecting there was more to come," Wentzel testified. "He was standing in the middle of the road not trying to seek cover or anything. It was almost like he knew it was over."
© Copyright 2008 Associated Press.
(NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS CLEARLY POORLY WRITTEN OR BLATANTLY ONE-SIDED; so, a companion article from another source is printed here.)

Here's a better article on this case from this mornings Fayetteville Observer. It's apparent the prosecution case was all circumstanial, because the only presented ONE witness who's "testimony putting a claymore in Martinez’s possession." In addition there was almost a mistrial because a "prosecution witness twice violated the judge’s orders to avoid discussing inadmissible evidence."

"Jury acquits Martinez of murder charges"
By Paul Woolverton and Corey G. Johnson
Staff writers

A woman’s shriek of outrage ripped through a Fort Bragg courtroom Thursday evening when a military jury announced it had acquitted Army Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez of murdering two of his superior officers at a military base in Iraq.

Martinez, 41, was accused of using a mine to kill 30-year-old Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, N.Y., and 34-year-old 1st Lt. Louis Allen of Milford, Pa., in June 2005. The three served in a Troy, N.Y., based unit of the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard.

A guilty verdict could have led to a death sentence for the first sergeant.

Members of Allen and Esposito’s families, wailing in the courtroom, remained convinced he is guilty.

“This is the United States of America!” a disbelieving woman cried.

The judge, Col. Stephen Henley, excused the jury while the family members continued to cry. Esposito’s father, Thomas, tried to keep them calm. “Easy, easy, easy,” he said, trying to console his wife, Joan, and the other women around him. “Easy, easy, easy.”

Barbara Allen, Lt. Allen’s widow, lashed out from the front row of the spectator area. She and Esposito’s widow, Siobhan, have attended 3 years of courtroom proceedings at Fort Bragg and overseas.

“He slaughtered our husbands and that’s it!” she shouted as the 14 jurors walked out.

She turned toward Martinez and cursed him. “You murdered my husband!” she cried.

The Army also was convinced Martinez did it. “We wouldn’t have brought charges if we weren’t convinced that Staff Sgt. Martinez was guilty,” said Lt. Col. Kerry, Fort Bragg’s chief prosecutor.

A Fort Bragg spokeswoman said later that the Allen and Esposito families were declining interview requests.

Martinez and his family, who attended the trial, also declined an interview request. One of Martinez’s lawyers, Maj. Marc Cipriano, issued a prepared statement on their behalf late Thursday:

“We are pleased that the military justice system worked, and we are grateful for the representation and support of the defense team. Our sympathies go out to the families of the victims. This has been a very difficult process for everyone involved, and we are happy to be back together again as a family.”

Prosecutors tried to persuade the jury that more than a year of enmity between Esposito and Martinez ended with four explosions at the Water Palace at Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit, Iraq.

In nearly six weeks of testimony, they presented testimony describing major problems with how Martinez, the supply sergeant, ran the company’s supply section, while the defense team tried to counter them.

Witnesses said Esposito repeatedly tried to get Martinez to do paperwork to keep track of millions of dollars in equipment, but Martinez resisted or ignored his direction. They said Martinez often complained about Esposito and cursed him. Some reported threatening comments.

In May 2005, according to testimony and evidence, Esposito had enough of the problems. He banned Martinez from access to the supply areas and began taking steps to boot him from his company.

The prosecutors said Martinez feared this would cost him his full-time job with the National Guard.

Staff Sgt. Amy Harlan, a supply sergeant from another company, said that she gave Martinez grenades, claymore mines and other ammunition when her Army Reserve unit was preparing to return to the United States.

She said Martinez told her the ammunition would “be put to good use.” It was the only testimony putting a claymore in Martinez’s possession.

About 10 p.m. June 7, 2005, a claymore exploded in the window of Esposito’s office. The blast hurled 700 ball bearings at Esposito and Allen, who were playing a board game at a table just inside the glass.

Moments later, three grenades were detonated just outside the building.

Soldiers in the area at first assumed it was an enemy mortar attack. The prosecutors said Martinez set off the grenades to foster that illusion and cover up the murders.

Martinez, who lived and worked in the Water Palace, was on the street outside right after the explosions.

The defense team showed that no one saw Martinez with the claymore or its detonator switch and wire that night, and no inventory records showed that the claymore used in the murders was among those he got from Harlan. Harlan and Martinez kept poor records, and the serial number on the claymore’s detonator switch could not be traced to Martinez.

Further, other soldiers had access to claymores, and other soldiers had problems with Esposito.

Throughout the court-martial, the defense lawyers argued that investigators fixated on Martinez from the beginning and ignored other potential suspects.

Martinez did not testify.

Emotional flare-ups and exchanges marked the court-martial from the outset.

A mistrial was barely averted after a prosecution witness twice violated the judge’s orders to avoid discussing inadmissible evidence. A prosecutor was warned for laughing and making an inappropriate comment while the jury was in the courtroom. Defense questioning of witnesses brought repeated admonishments from the judge. Tense relations and poor communication between the legal teams delayed witnesses appearances and stalled court proceedings at least three times.

With the acquittal, Martinez is being released from custody. Charges of disobeying orders and giving military property to an Iraqi were dismissed earlier this year. He had been jailed since June 2005.

Although he is no longer in the National Guard, Martinez is still in the Army and assigned to Fort Bragg. A Fort Bragg spokesman said Martinez has served the term of his enlistment, so he can leave the service if he wants.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at or 486-3512.
Staff writer Corey G. Johnson can be reached at or 323-4848, ext. 487. "


ichbinalj said...

AFRet91 said: Theres not enough information or evidence in this article to make a determination of any kind except that it was poorly reported without enough detail to make a convincing argument of any kind.

Try again AP, next time find a real reporter.

ichbinalj said...

SW_MONKEY said: This is a bad, lopsided article. My experience with the Court Marshal system and that of many I talked to who have served on the boards is that you generally are guilty until proven innocent. Several of my superior NCOs I worked with when I served had set on court marshal boards and always told me "take the Article 15, never go to a CM as you are guilty until proven innocent". I expect there was plenty of evidence proving this soldier was not involved or he'd be frying right now. I do feel for the families, but I trust the military system far more than its civilian counterpart.

ichbinalj said...

CCDude said: What a terribly written piece of Journalism!!!

Absolutely nothing is stated to explain why this jury let this guy walk

ichbinalj said...

scottmac38 said: This is the most disgusting outcome imaginable. I would like to know what kind of stupid idiots were on the jury. Sounds like a repeat of the OJ trial and that aquital of a murdering scum.

ichbinalj said...

KenRob47 said: Yea...and OJ will go to jail for allegedly getting back property that belonged to him, and Mike Vick went to jail for killing dogs...go figure....

ichbinalj said...

yoursuperior said: you can't convict someone on speculation ,i think they did it!DAH .LOOK at OJ today he'll probably get life ,that jury had EVIDENCE. i know its hard for some of you kill kill guys to realize we live our lives by LAWS,not like gang bangers like you.

ichbinalj said...

kiteborderjoe said: Hats off to the jury. Those self righteous elete O's Fugged with the wrong guy. Justice prevails!