BERLIN -- A US tank company commander accused of killing a critically wounded Iraqi driver for radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will be court-martialed, an Army spokesman said yesterday.
Captain Rogelio Maynulet, 29, of Chicago will be tried on charges of assault with intent to commit murder and dereliction of duty. If convicted, he would face a combined sentence of up to 20 years, said Major Michael Indovina.
During Maynulet's Article 32 hearing -- the equivalent of a civilian grand jury investigation -- witnesses testified that the driver had been shot in the head when Maynulet saw him. A fellow officer said Maynulet told him he then shot the man out of compassion.
Maynulet was initially charged with murder, but Major General Martin Dempsey, commander of the First Armored Division, decided Monday to proceed with lesser charges at the court-martial.
Maynulet's defense attorney, Captain Will Helixon, could not be reached for comment.
Former commanders of Maynulet spoke highly of him during his hearing, saying he was a trustworthy officer.
Prosecutors tried to paint a different picture, saying he had carried a nonregulation weapon and once broke into an Iraqi police station to retrieve an identification card for a civilian contractor.
The court-martial charges stem from a May 21 incident when Maynulet was leading his tank company on a patrol near Kufa. They encountered a sedan thought to be carrying a driver for Sadr and another man loyal to the cleric, chased the vehicle, and fired at it.
When a medic pulled the driver out of the car, it was clear he had suffered critical injuries, according to testimony at the hearing.
Maynulet's fellow officer, First Lieutenant Colin Cremin, testified that Maynulet told him he then shot the Iraqi in the base of the neck or the back of the head.
''It was something he didn't want to do, but it was the compassionate response," Cremin testified.