Ex-Marine guilty of manslaughter in fatal stabbing of another Marine during fight

A D.C. Superior Court jury found a former U.S. Marine guilty Monday of voluntary manslaughter while armed in the 2012 fatal stabbing of another Marine during a fight near Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row.

Michael Poth, 21, showed little emotion as the jury foreperson read the verdicts Monday, but family members sobbed loudly. Poth had been charged with second-degree murder in the April 21, 2012, fatal stabbing of Philip Bushong, 23. But the jury acquitted him of the more serious charge and instead found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Poth is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 7. He faces a maximum of 60 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines call for a term of between 7 1/2 and 15 years, prosecutors said.

Poth’s attorney, Bernie Grimm, repeatedly argued that his client was only defending himself from Bushong and his friend, who both were about a foot taller than the 5-foot-7, 140-pound Poth, during an altercation.

Bushong’s family said they were disappointed in the verdict. “We trusted the justice system to do its job,” said his father, Michael. Bushong’s family and Poth’s family sat across from each other in the courtroom during the week-long trial.

A friend of Bushong’s testified that Bushong thought he only had been slapped during an altercation with Poth, and did not realize that he had been stabbed until after he saw blood coming from his chest.

Bushong, who was in the Marine’s Color Guard, was scheduled to be discharged from the Marines less than a week after the stabbing.

Prosecutors argued that Poth, who witnesses had testified had been drinking excessively that evening, approached Bushong and a male friend outside a restaurant in the 700 block of Eighth Street SE. As Poth passed the two men, one witness said Poth used a homosexual slur. A witness then testified that Poth and Bushong, who had also been drinking earlier in the evening, according to testimony, got into an argument, each calling the other a “boot” — a Marine term to describe a poor Marine or someone fresh out of boot camp.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman said military officials had initiated an “other than honorable” discharge of Poth several months before Bushong’s slaying.

Poth had tested positive for using synthetic marijuana and had verbally assaulted other soldiers. At the time of the attack, Poth was living in a Marine barracks, about a block from where the stabbing occurred.

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Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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