Courts-martial possible in death of soldier after night of drinking
Posted March 20, 2009 4:24 p.m. EDT
Updated March 20, 2009 5:26 p.m. EDT
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Five of the soldiers who were out with Pfc. Luke Brown on the night of his death will face courts-martial, two sources familiar with the case said Friday.
Lt. Col. Christopher Eubank, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Special Troops Battalion, will make the final decision about whether to court martial the men who allegedly punched, choked and restrained Brown in the early hours of July 20.
Brown, 27, of Fredericksburg, Va., was found dead in a car in a parking lot off Bastogne Drive on post on July 20.
Seven soldiers were charged with involuntary manslaughter in Brown's death.
They are: Sgt. Justin A. Boyle of Rocky Point, N.Y.; Sgt. Christopher Mignocchi, 22, of Hollywood, Fla.; Sgt. Kyle G. Saltz, 25, of Richland, Wash.;
Spc. Joseph Misuraca, of Harper Woods, Mich.; Pfc. Andrey Udalov, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Spc. Charles B. DeLong, of Dade City, Fla.; and Sgt. Ryan Sullivan, 23, of Mount Laurel, N.J.
Sources said a report submitted to Eubank recommended the charges against DeLong and Sullivan be dismissed and that the other five face courts-martial.
Sgt. Mitchell Lafortune, who was also there the night of Brown's death but is not charged, testified that he saw the soldiers "aggressively assault" Brown in an effort to calm him after he got into a fight at a bar.
Lafortune said that Brown was drinking and socializing at the Ugly Stick but seemed to be in a bad mood. Brown got into an argument with a soldier from another unit, grabbed the man's beer and drank it while they watched girls dance on a stage.
Lafortune said around 2 a.m. Brown became aggravated and wandered off into the woods near the bar.
When the group left, a soldier found Brown in a patch of woods behind the bar. Lafortune said he heard a commotion and saw Brown being choked and punched. He said the soldiers were trying to get Brown to pass out so they could move him.
The military judge who presided over the hearings recommended the courts-martial, but warned a conviction might be difficult.
“Any cases referred to court-martial will be tried against the backdrop of the perceived Army and, more specifically, the 82nd Airborne Division ethic that ‘you never leave a Soldier (especially a paratrooper) behind. The evidence suggests that there is a pervasive mind-set that one can do whatever is needed, to include using physical force and restraints, to ‘bring a buddy back to post,’" he wrote.