NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A military appeals court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a
U.S. Navy SEAL who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the hazing death of a U.S. Army Green Beret.

In a recent hearing, the appeals court ruled prosecutors did not disclose Marine Staff Sergeant Kevin Maxwell had asked for additional clemency in exchange for his testimony against Special Warfare Operator Chief Tony DeDolph.

The ruling came last week, nearly 2 years after DeDolph received his decade-long punishment. He was one of four American service members charged in the death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar. The men were serving in the African country of Mali in 2017 when Melgar died.

The two SEALs and two Marine Raiders came up with a plan to embarrass Melgar, because he had left a bar without giving some of them a ride home to their quarters.

With duct tape, handcuffs and a sledgehammer they broke into his room, and bound him facedown on his bed. DeDolph then applied what’s known as a “rear naked chokehold” – causing Melgar to lose consciousness in about 10 seconds.

According to court documents, the SEALs and Marines tried to revive Melgar using CPR and cutting an airway into his throat. They took the unresponsive Melgar to a clinic where he was pronounced dead.

DeDolph pleaded guilty at court martial on Naval Station Norfolk to conspiracy, involuntary manslaughter, and other charges in Melgar’s death. Maxwell was sentenced to four years for his role, reduction in rank, and a bad conduct discharge.

What DeDolph and his defense counsel did not know was Maxwell had requested additional clemency. He wanted the four-year sentence cut in half to two years for his cooperation.

An appeals court ruled last week that gave Maxwell incentive to exaggerate his testimony and was unfair to DeDolph. The three-judge panel set aside his sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Maxwell and SEAL Adam Matthews pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to prison. In exchange for his testimony Maxwell ended up getting a reduction of only one year, leaving him with three years, and the bad conduct discharge was removed.

In 2021, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mario A. Madera-Rodriguez was found guilty of manslaughter in connection with Melgar’s death.

Madera-Rodriguez was also found guilty of several other charges by a panel of eight military members after a court martial in Norfolk, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, false official statements and hazing.

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