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Military Prosecutors Present Case Against Two Accused In Parachute Sabotage

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Military prosecutors began Tuesdaypresenting their case against two Marines accused of attemptedmurder in the sabotage of parachutes, some of which failed duringjump training.

Most of the morning session of the Article 32 hearing consistedof prosecutors turning over exhibits they want to use in acourt-martail to Maj. Paul McConnell, who is serving as thecivilian equivalent of a judge in the military court. McConnell wasto examine the exhibits and determine which ones he will use indeciding if the Marines should be court-martialed.

Lance Cpl. Julian Ramirez of Los Angeles and Lance Cpl. AntoineD. Boykins of Baltimore were charged last month with attemptedpremeditated murder, reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commitpremeditated murder and destruction of government property.

Three Marines suffered minor injuries Sept. 21 when their mainparachutes failed, forcing them to use reserve chutes as theyjumped from a C-17 Globemaster during heavy equipment parachutetraining.

Jumpmasters canceled the training and, on their return to CherryPoint Air Station, discovered suspension lines on 13 of 25parachutes had been cut and repacked in such a way to avoiddetection.

Before the hearing began, the civilian attorney for Ramirez saidhis client was disturbed by the charges.

"Obviously, he's disturbed, but he believes he'll be vindicated in the long run," said Dick McNeil.

The exhibits presented by prosecutors included statements fromtwo of the men whose parachutes malfunctioned. The third man wastestify at the hearing Tuesday afternoon. The exhibits alsoincluded statements from other members of the parachute team whodid not jump.

The judge also will review a report by military investigatorsthat focuses on DNA evidence found on one of the parachutes.

McNeil said Ramirez was a parachute rigger. The Marines saidboth men were air delivery specialists with 2nd TransportationSupport Battalion, 2nd Force Support Group.

If convicted of all the charges, Ramirez could receive life inprison without parole, McNeil said.

"From the beginning of this, we've maintained his innocence,"McNeil said.

The two Marines have been held in the brig at Camp Lejeune sincethe end of January. Ramirez also was charged with unauthorizedabsence.

The afternoon before the incident, 20 jumpers when throughtraining and their parachutes were stored in a large locker. Thereare only three keys to the parachute locker, officials said.

The parachutes were distributed at random, officials said, butit was unclear if they were assigned the night before. Each Marinecarried his own parachute the day of the exercise.

An Article 32 hearing is the military equivalent of a grand juryhearing, although it is open and defense attorneys cancross-examine witnesses.

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