NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Two of three Navy SEALs charged in connection with the allegedmistreatment of an Iraqi detainee had at least one of their chargesdropped Tuesday in separate appearances in military courtrooms atNaval Station Norfolk.
Separate motion hearings were held for both Petty Officer 2ndClass Jonathan Elliott Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class JulioAntonio Huertas Jr.
Tuesday, a judge dismissed a 'making a false statement' chargeagainst Keefe. The dismissal was expected following a rulinglast month that investigators did not advise Keefe of his right toremain silent before he made his statement about not seeing anyonestrike the detainee.
The 'making a false statement' charge was also dropped againstHuertas, although a motion to dismiss an obstruction of justicecharge was denied.
It was also disclosed in both hearings on Tuesday that travelplans have been finalized for both Keefe's and Huertas' trials tobe conducted in Iraq later this month. Keefe's military trialis set for April 19th, followed by Huertas' on April 22nd.
The charges against the SEALs involve the capture of AhmedHashim Abed. Abed has been linked to the 2004 deaths of fourBlackwater contractors who were mutilated before their bodies werehung from a bridge in Fallujah.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, of Perrysburg, Ohio, isaccused of striking the detainee in the midsection, dereliction ofduty for failing to safeguard the detainee, and lying toinvestigators following Abed's arrest in September of lastyear. His trial is set for May 3rd at Naval StationNorfolk.
Petty Officer Keefe, of Yorktown, is charged with dereliction ofduty.
In addition to obstruction of justice, Petty Officer Huertas,of Blue Island, Ill., is also charged with dereliction ofduty.
The SEALs have denied the charges. All three are based at JointExpeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story. Militaryofficials originally wanted to handle the cases through a processknown as "nonjudicial punishment," but the SEALs insisted on goingto trial in an effort to clear their names and save theircareers.
Keefe's attorney Greg McCormack told WAVY.COM on Tuesday, "Ifirmly feel he'll be found not guilty." McCormack says the caseboils down to this, "are these insurgents trained to makeallegations of abuse and torture when they're captured, and theyclearly are, and that's our position."
As for the alleged detainee, McCormack says the government ishanging its case on his statements. "They're relying on that oneindividual and there's significant issues with what he's saying. Ithink the government's case is very weak."
Last month, a military judge ordered the command of severalpossible defense witnesses - who reportedly back the three SEALs'version of events - to provide witness immunity.
Previously the service members were denied immunity by theircommand.
Navy spokesman Lt. Arlo Abrahamson said depositions were takenTuesday from several defense witnesses who had been grantedimmunity.
In January, a judge ordered the trials of Keefe and Huertasmoved to Iraq. Cmdr. Tierney Carlos moved the trials aftergovernment prosecutors said they would make the detainee availablefor deposition at Camp Victory in Baghdad but would not bring himto Naval Station Norfolk to testify. The judge ruled that Keefe andHuertas have a right to face their accuser in open court.
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