Prosecution of Navy SEALs Unraveling

With two courtroom exonerations, the military’s prosecution of  three Navy SEALs is unraveling because one of the two star witnesses is a suspected al Qaeda terrorist, and the second one has told inconsistent stories, persons involved in the case tell HUMAN EVENTS.

Neal Puckett, the attorney for Petty Officer Matthew McCabe, said  the two not guilty verdicts last week should prompt Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, who brought the charges, to dismiss the case against his client.

"It would be a waste of money to put McCabe on trial  when they can’t prove the underlining event happened," he said of the scheduled May 3 trial in Norfolk. "All three cases have the identical witnesses and evidence. It’s the same case."

McCabe’s fellow SEALs  were exonerated in separate courts-martial in Baghdad on charges of dereliction of duty in the capture and confinement last September of Ahmed Hashim Abed, one of the most-hunted terrorist suspects in Iraq. On Friday, a military jury acquitted Petty Officer Julio Huertas; the next day, the judge who presided over that trial found Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe not guilty in a non-jury trial.

Next up is McCabe, the only one of the three actually charged with striking Abed.

What do the verdicts mean for McCabe next week?

"It significantly increases the chances we are going to win because the government’s evidence and theory of guilt has been tried out on a basic military jury and they didn’t buy it," Puckett said.

Now that the military’s evidence against the three SEALs has become public in court, it is questionable why Gen. Cleveland, who oversees the special ops segment of Central Command, ever filed charges.

It is one thing for civilian government prosecutors to rely on gangland thugs as witnesses to win jury convictions of other gangland thugs.

But in Baghdad last week, when the government relied on a reputed terrorist thug to try to convict brave Navy SEALs, a military jury  and judge did not buy it. 

Abed was U.S. Central Command’s star witness. Trouble is, he may be a murderer. Intelligence reports say he masterminded the ambush and killings of four American Blackwater security guards in Falluhja in 2004. Terrorists hung two of the charred bodies on a bridge over the Euphrates River in a grotesque scene that underscored the enemy’s willingness to kill and mutilate anyone.

The SEALs captured Abed last September in a perfectly executed insertion, snatch and extraction in Anbar Province.

The Huertas-Keefe verdicts exposed the prosecutions’ deep problems and further fed conservative criticism of Cleveland, who had wanted to handle the case privately in his office via non-judicial punishment. But the SEALs maintained their innocence, rejected the offer and demanded trials.

Handcuffed and in a yellow jump suit, Abed testified, via a translator, that he was beaten while held at base camp before being transferred to Baghdad, where he remains jailed. But he said he was hooded and does not know who struck him. 

The fact the al Qaeda handbook directs captured terrorists to always claimed they were beaten, called his assertions into question. The defense showed photographs of the detainee to judge and jury. Abed lacked any bruises to support his story.

The other star witness was Petty Officer Kevin DeMartino, the master-at-arms at the base whose job it was to guard Abed. DeMartino testified he saw McCabe punch Abed in the gut — testimony McCabe denies.

But DeMartino gave differing statements to investigators. At least four other trial witnesses rebutted his versions. For example, DeMartino said a SEAL saw blood on Abed’s white dishdasha and helped him take it off. But the SEAL in question denied the incident ever happened.

 "The combination of Abed the terrorist and Petty Officer DeMartino was not believed by the jury," Puckett said. 

Of DeMartino, he said, "I have eight witnesses who will completely rebut what DeMartino said. DeMartino says people did this and that. We have the people denying this …. He is also the individual solely responsible for Abed at all times, for safety of detainee, and we can prove he left his post."

DeMartino acknowledged at Huertas trial that he at first lied to investigators, according to press reports of the trial.

"He’s what we call a completely impeached witness," Puckett said.

A Navy source close to the case summed up the prosecution this way for HUMAN EVENTS: "The prosecution’s case relied on a terrorist with no credibility and on DeMartino, who was responsible for the detainee and, the evidence showed, was alone with the detainee and left the detainee alone and unguarded at times when he was in his custody, violating all of the basic rules for handling a prisoner, much less a terrorist detainee.  DeMartino’s story has essentially evolved over time, from he ‘didn’t know what happened to the detainee,’ to ‘every SEAL took a punch at the detainee.’ He has made seven different statements, all of which are materially inconsistent with each other and contrary to the physical evidence."

The U.S. military has refused to release any details on why Abed is being held. Abed denies he had anything to do with the Fallujah atrocity.

But Puckett said among the discovery documents the military turned over to the defense is an intelligence assessment that Abed planned the horrible attack.