NORFOLK, Va. — The prosecution’s star witness in the trial of a Navy SEAL charged with abusing a terror suspect was discredited when multiple witnesses testified that Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartino had a motive for false accusations.
DeMartino, the only witness that said he saw the defendant strike the suspect, could face a dishonorable discharge for not performing his duties correctly when he was assigned to guard the terrorist, giving him motivation to lie on the stand, according to the case being built by the defense lawyers.
DeMartino’s job as a Master at Arms (MA) was to stay with the detainee at all times. A Navy photographer said when she came to take photos of the detainee “she could not find him anywhere.” The photographer was not the only witness to claim Wednesday that DeMartino was not where he was suppose to be that day.
Earlier DeMartino testified that he saw Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe punch Ahmed Hashim Abed, the detained terrorist and suspected mastermind behind the brutal murders of four civilians in Fallujah. "It was a right-cross. He punched him in the stomach," said DeMartino. In his testimony he claims that other SEALs entered the room but McCabe was the only one he saw punch Abed.
Hours later a SEAL commander found Abed with blood on his chin and clothing. When he asked DeMartino what happened, he said DeMartino said “I don’t know.” While under oath DeMartino admitted that he left the detainee twice while he was supposed to be watching him — once to get medical paperwork and once to stow his gun.
While being cross examined by McCabe’s defense attorney Neal Puckett, DeMartino stated “All eyes are on me, he was in my responsibility.”
“At some point you knew that because of the blood people would point to you first, did you not?” asked Puckett “You were derelict in your duties?”
“Yes, I was, ” said DeMartino
Navy Reserve member Paul Franco, DeMartino’s supervisor on the camp, said that he had “reservations” about DeMartino’s “truthfulness.” Franco said that often DeMartino lied about completing tasks.
Franco testified that DeMartino came to him after the alleged incidents to talk. He was crying and visibly upset. “He told me ‘I hate this ****ing place, this guy is going to make a claim,” Franco said.
Franco, an 11-year Navy Reserves member, said that in prior weeks to the incident DeMartino was under more pressure due to extra work. He had noticed that DeMartino stopped working out and seemed to have lost motivation.
Franco testified that he directed DeMartino to talk to a commanding officer who was better qualified to deal with a claim of abuse by the detainee.
The photographer who testified she could not find DeMartino when she needed to take her photos of Abed, said that DeMartino sought her advice as well.
She testified that she saw DeMartino upset and that “he said his life was over,” “he said he couldn’t eat or sleep.” DeMartino talked with several of the witnesses who claim they saw him panicked and that he talked of wanting to be a California Highway Patrol Officer and that his chances could be ruined.
A SEAL commander whose name cannot be revealed due to his active service testified that while he walked with Abed to hand him over to the Iraqi’s he noticed him “sucking on his lip, and spitting blood.”
“Was he feigning injury?” asked Puckett.
“He appeared to be hamming it up,” answered the commander.
Two medics also testified that when screening Abed and documenting their findings there did not appear to be any injuries. One medic said though that Abed claimed he was abused.
The court is expected to hear from more defense witnesses on Thursday, one of which will testify by telephone, and another that is expected to be an oral surgeon.