NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A U.S. Marine has been convicted in connection to the 2017 death of a Green Beret.
WAVY’s Chris Horne reports Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr. pled guilty to several charges including negligent homicide, and was sentenced Friday by USMC Judge Col. Glen Hines to four years confinement, a bad conduct discharge and reduction in rank from E-6 to E-1, private.
Maxwell and three others were charged last November in U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar’s death. Melgar was killed while serving in Mali.
Maxwell testified late Thursday afternoon that he had great respect for Melgar as a soldier, and the two often would often socialize together and that he considered Melgar a good friend. Maxwell said he and Melgar were on a tourist boat together on the Niger River the day before his death, and one of the last known pictures of Melgar, from that outing, was shown in court Thursday.
According to Maxwell, there was tension between the Navy SEALS and the Army Green Berets on the special operations team that was gathering information in the West African region against Al Qaeda.
Maxwell said SEAL Anthony DeDolph came up with the plan the night before while the four defendants were at a Bamako bar. He said at first it seemed only to be a joke, but then it got increasingly serious.
Maxwell showed considerable remorse during his sworn testimony, saying he lacked the moral courage when he had opportunities to stop the plan, or at least decline to participate.
“I was too weak to stand up for what’s right, and instead I tried to fit in,” he testified as he directly addressed Melgar’s widow, Michelle.
Two members of the famed SEAL Team Six were charged as well as another Marine.
One of the SEALS, Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews, was sentenced last month to 12 months of confinement.
Maxwell says it was a well-planned hazing death in the pre-dawn hours of June 4, 2017. The four people who were charged had distinct roles. Marine Raider Mario Madera-Rodriguez would break through Melgar’s door with a sledgehammer. Then Navy SEAL Adam Matthews would help Maxwell restrain Melgar, and DeDolph would apply the chokehold that killed Melgar.
Melgar’s widow and mother both testified at Maxwell’s general court martial. Michelle Melgar said she forgave Maxwell for the loss of her husband which she called suffocating, and that the irony of that wasn’t lost on her.
His mother Nitsa Melgar said to Maxwell, “I hope you go to prison for the rest of your life, and have the image of Logan‘s eyes staring back just as they did when you killed him.”
Like Matthews before him, Maxwell entered a plea agreement with the government. Prosecutors had asked for 9 years of confinement, but were willing to suspend four of those years if Maxwell testifies in the two remaining cases. Ultimately Maxwell got four years of confinement regardless of his level of cooperation.
Otherwise, the charges to which Maxwell pled guilty – negligent homicide, conspiracy to commit assault, conspiracy to obstruct justice, burglary, hazing, obstructing justice and making false statements – could have exposed him to as much as 35 years in prison.
Maxwell will be taken to the brig at Camp Lejeune but is subject to transfer later in his four-year sentence.