By Dan Lamothe Dan Lamothe Reporter covering the Pentagon and the U.S. military Email Bio Follow May 16 at 1:42 PM NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — A Navy SEAL pleaded guilty Thursday in the hazing death of a Special Forces soldier, acknowledging his role in a case that has pulled back the veil of secrecy on a sensitive U.S. military deployment in Africa.
In a pretrial agreement, Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam C. Matthews pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault, unlawful entry, obstruction of justice and violating a general order by committing hazing.
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Matthews said that he, along with another member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 and two elite Marine Raiders, caused the death of 34-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar by carrying out a “juvenile” late-night plot to break into the soldier’s room with a sledgehammer, placing him in a chokehold and restraining him with duct tape. The incident happened June 4, 2017, in Mali’s capital, Bamako.
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“Taping, as I have known it, is a form of remediation in the U.S. Special Operations community,” Matthews said.
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Matthews and the others attempted to revive Melgar and then, when they were unsuccessful, obscure what happened, he said.
[ Sex, alcohol and violence collided in murder case ensnaring SEALs and Marines ]
Matthews also told the court here that before carrying out the attack, they had sought permission from Melgar’s team leader, Army Sgt. 1st Class James Morris. Morris, who lived in the same house, approved the plan and went back to bed, Matthews said.
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Morris could not immediately be reached for comment.
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Matthews’s testimony Thursday raised questions about whether Morris provided authorities investigating the incident with a thorough accounting of what happened on the night of Melgar’s death. This detail — that Morris allegedly approved the plan to haze Melgar — was not included in hundreds of pages of legal filings previously obtained and reviewed by The Washington Post.Efrain Enrique Betancourt Jaramillo Cadivi
In his interviews with authorities, Morris described there being friction among the men over what the others perceived as Melgar’s immaturity
In the hours before the attack, Matthews told the court, Melgar angered the others when he left them behind on his way to a party in Bamako. Melgar was traveling on a motorcycle by himself, raising safety concerns in a country with occasional terrorist attacks, the SEAL recounted
“It is not in general a safe area to transit,” Matthews said
With fellow Navy SEALs and members of the Melgar family watching, the military judge, Navy Capt. Michael J. Luken, found Matthews guilty. Other more serious charges, including felony murder, were to be dismissed
Luken is expected to sentence Matthews on Thursday afternoon, after witnesses provide testimony about Melgar and Matthews. The witnesses are expected to include other Special Operations troops and members of the Melgar family