Soldier Feels Abandoned In His Courtroom Battle

Cpl. Kendall D. McKibben is charged with assaulting a police officer during what he and military doctors believe was an epileptic seizure.
Cpl. Kendall D. McKibben is charged with assaulting a police officer during what he and military doctors believe was an epileptic seizure. (By Michael Robinson-chavez -- The Washington Post)
By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cpl. Kendall D. McKibben was prepared to sacrifice his life for the Army. He says he almost did repeatedly over a year of patrols dodging bullets in Baghdad and dealing with a grape-size brain tumor.

So the 33-year-old says he can't understand why the military is refusing a routine subpoena that he believes could help him avoid a 13-year prison sentence.

McKibben goes on trial today in Howard County District Court on charges of assaulting a police officer during what he and his doctors believe was an epileptic seizure related to his now-removed brain tumor. But military officials will not allow his doctors to testify.

"I feel completely abandoned," said McKibben, who lives in Silver Spring. "Here I am raising my hand saying I need a little help, and I get the door slammed on my nose."

Army officials said regulations prohibit military personnel from "providing expert testimony in private litigation . . . except under the most extraordinary circumstances." The military decided McKibben's case did not qualify.

The military did provide him last night with an affidavit from a neurologist, but his attorney said it will be of limited use because he can't introduce the document at trial.

McKibben feels doubly wronged because he believes the tumor itself was caused by exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq. Depleted uranium is a heavy metal that is slightly radioactive and is used in some armor-piercing munitions.

In Baghdad, McKibben said, his main job was fixing Bradley Fighting Vehicles, although he frequently went on patrols. All the mechanics in his unit lived in a junkyard filled with damaged vehicles from the Iraqi army.

McKibben said he didn't think much of the U.S. ammunition -- filled with depleted uranium -- that had pierced most of those vehicles in the first Gulf War.

But when he was transferred to a base in Germany, he began to have severe headaches and strange memory lapses. Once, he got into his car in the morning to drive to work and forgot where he was going.

Doctors soon diagnosed him with a tumor on the right lobe of his brain and nodules in his right lung. He said he was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to have the tumor removed on March 8, 2005, the day before his 32nd birthday.

"I know it was the uranium that caused the tumor. That stuff is a weapon of mass destruction," McKibben said. "A lot of other guys in my units started developing cysts all over their bodies. One guy died."

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