Soldier says he hoped accused leader wouldn't be reported

By Estes Thompson
Associated Press / August 15, 2008
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FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A Green Beret testified yesterday that his team sergeant, who faces possible court-martial in the killing and mutilation of an Afghan civilian, is a man he'd want by his side during battle.

Staff Sergeant Gregory Dubois testified at a military hearing that Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, 38, of Tecumseh, Mich., was "a brave dude" in battle during their deployment to a remote fire base in Afghanistan. When the allegations came out, Dubois said he hoped Newell wouldn't be reported.

"The right thing to do was report it," Dubois said. "It's painful. The last thing in the world I wanted to see happen was it to go forward. I was hoping for something else."

Newell, who has served in the military for two decades, could face a murder charge in the March 5 killing of the Afghan man, whom the team believed was an insurgent. Newell also is charged with cutting off the man's ear and stealing a scarf from his head.

Dubois and Newell are members of the 3d Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg.

"He'll be there by my side," said Dubois about going into a fire fight with Newell.

The testimony came during day 3 of the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury and is used to determine if there is enough evidence to send the charges to a formal trial or court-martial.

The only eyewitness to testify, Sergeant First Class Ricky Derring, has said Newell detained and questioned the man after spotting civilians who appeared to be watching their convoy.

Derring said Newell shot the man in the chest and left the body in the desert.

They went back to the body later, and Newell returned to their vehicle with a human ear, Derring said.

Army investigators later found an ear in Newell's room at his base in Afghanistan.

Civilian defense lawyer Todd Conormon later suggested that after the shooting, "there is a mutiny here against the team sergeant," but he didn't elaborate.

The hearing officer will make a recommendation to the unit commander after he reviews the testimony and consults with a lawyer assigned to advise him.

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