Local News

Military Prosecutors Present Case Against Two Accused In Parachute Sabotage

Posted March 18, 2003 5:23 a.m. EST

— Military prosecutors began Tuesday presenting their case against two Marines accused of attempted murder in the sabotage of parachutes, some of which failed during jump training.

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

Lance Cpl. Julian Ramirez of Los Angeles and Lance Cpl. Antoine D. Boykins of Baltimore were charged last month with attempted premeditated murder, reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and destruction of government property.

Three Marines suffered minor injuries Sept. 21 when their main parachutes failed, forcing them to use reserve chutes as they jumped from a C-17 Globemaster during heavy equipment parachute training.

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

Before the hearing began, the civilian attorney for Ramirez said his 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 from two of the men whose parachutes malfunctioned. The third man was testify at the hearing Tuesday afternoon. The exhibits also included statements from other members of the parachute team who did not jump.

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

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

If convicted of all the charges, Ramirez could receive life in prison 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 since the end of January. Ramirez also was charged with unauthorized absence.

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

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

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