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Posted at 09:33 AM ET, 10/27/2011

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, alleged leader of Stryker ‘kill team,’ set to face court-martial

Army Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs walks through a poppy field in Kandahar province. (Max Becherer - Polaris)
Army Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs made his first appearance in a military courtroom about a year ago now, and the charges against him then were as grave as they are today — that he led his unit in a conspiracy to murder unarmed Afghan civilians, hoard body parts and cover up the killings.

This week, Gibbs will be back in court in Washington state for the start of his court-martial case.

Last November was the start of Gibbs’s Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing. Since that time, not only has a military judge referred his case to a court-martial, three other members of his alleged “kill team” have been found guilty as part of plea agreements. At least two of them are expected to testify against him.

Jeremy Morlock, the specialist whose videotaped confession was leaked last year, was sentenced to 24 years in prison on three counts of murder, among other charges. Adam Winfield, the specialist who said he was threatened and pressured by Gibbs, was sentenced to three years on reduced charges of manslaughter and use of an illegal substance. And Andrew Holmes, a private charged in the case, was jailed for seven years on one count of murder.

That leaves Gibbs and Spec. Michael S. Wagnon II as the two other members of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who were among the soldiers alleged to have been involved in the core of the case.

Wagnon has yet to face to a court-martial hearing, and his attorney has maintained his client’s innocence while attacking the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. Gibbs’s attorney has done the same, and has said that the killings were combat-related and therefore justified.

A statement from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Gibbs and his unit were based, said Gibbs’s court-martial case will begin Friday.

If convicted of all charges, he faces a maximum punishment of life in prison, no parole.

Related links from The Post:

Background on the allegations of murder and conspiracy.

Photo gallery of the soldiers accused in the case.

Article on unit’s attempts to defend the killings.

Article on questions over combat culture and the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade.

By  |  09:33 AM ET, 10/27/2011

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