April 03, 2006
Court recommends alleged fragger be tried on additional charges
By Michelle Tan
Times staff writer
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez (center, wearing glasses) is escorted from his Article 32 investigation hearing April 3 at Ft. Bragg, NC. The hearing was for charges not directly related to the murder charges he already faces. — M. Scott Mahaskey / Times staff
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – A military court is recommending that a former New York National Guard staff sergeant who has been accused of killing two superior officers in Iraq face additional charges at court-martial.
Investigating officer Col. Patrick J. Reinert announced his decision Monday afternoon after hearing testimony from four witnesses during a second Article 32 hearing for Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, 38.
Martinez, formerly of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 42nd Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard, is already charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the June 7, 2005, deaths of his company commander, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito, and company operations officer, 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, at Forward Operating Base Danger near Tikrit, Iraq.
It is believed to be the first prosecution of a soldier accused of killing a superior officer — also known as fragging — while in Iraq.
The new charges against Martinez include wrongful possession of a privately owned firearm, unexploded ordnance and alcohol, and wrongfully giving about 20 government-owned printers and copiers to an Iraqi.
“What this shows is a disturbing pattern of misconduct by the accused,” prosecutor Capt. Adam Siple said before Reinert adjourned the hearing to deliberate.
Reinert is recommending that Martinez face both the murder charges, addressed in an Article 32 hearing in Kuwait, and the new charges in the same court-martial.
Reinert was the investigating officer for both Article 32 hearings, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.
Monday’s hearing brought Martinez within 10 feet of the Esposito and Allen families. The officers’ wives, Siobhan Esposito and Barbara Allen, attended the hearing, along with the officers’ parents and siblings.
Barbara Allen and Esposito’s mother, Joan, cried when Martinez, flanked by three military police officers, was brought into the room.
Martinez’s wife, Tammy, also attended the hearing, but the families took care to avoid one another.
Martinez, the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, was “fiduciary and guardian” of Army and government equipment, but he gave it away to an Iraqi, an interpreter who goes by the nicknames Pablo and Tiger, Siple said.
“The picture that emerges is Staff Sergeant Martinez engaged in dirty dealings … with Iraqi citizens,” he said.
Pablo, whose real name wasn’t revealed because he continues to work with U.S. forces in Iraq as an interpreter, testified by phone during Monday’s hearing.
At the beginning of his testimony, Pablo said hello to Martinez.
“He’s my good friend,” Pablo said, as Siobhan Esposito and Barbara Allen gasped in disbelief.
Pablo testified that he asked Martinez if he had any printers Pablo could sell. Martinez said yes, and Pablo said he took about 20 machines and sold them in Kirkuk for about $800.
He could have gotten $1,500 for them, but “most of the printers were broken,” Pablo said.
Pablo also testified that he bought alcohol — gin at $4 a bottle — for Martinez, but he said he didn’t give Martinez any money from selling the printers.
Sgt. Amy Harlan, who served with Martinez at FOB Danger, testified Monday that she saw him give the printers to Pablo.
Harlan also testified that Martinez showed her a firearm he described as a 7mm Iraqi pistol that bore a gold medallion and Arabic writing. She also testified that she saw Martinez with a bottle of what he said was alcohol.
When questioned by defense attorney Capt. John Gregory, Harlan said she didn’t smell or taste the contents of the bottle. She also told Gregory she didn’t know if the pistol was operable.
Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Paul Comesanas testified that a search of Martinez’s room in Iraq yielded a flare gun and 13 flare rounds.
Gregory later argued that the additional charges shouldn’t be referred to a general court-martial. The Iraqi pistol was never found during a search of Martinez’s living space in Iraq, the prosecution failed to prove the alcohol in the supply room belonged to Martinez, and it’s not unusual to own flares and a flare gun in Iraq, he said.
In the end, it took Reinert less than two hours to return with his decision.
Martinez, who was reassigned to Headquarters Company, XVIII Airborne Corps, at Fort Bragg, now waits to hear if he’ll be referred to a general court-martial. He remains in pretrial confinement in a military facility. Army officials declined to say where Martinez is being held.
Hanging is too good for this motherfucker...
Put him in charge of finding IED's on the road. He can go out and poke sticks at them to see if they explode.
Transfer to EOD. Field IED Inspector.
Otherwise, shoot the traitor. Let his squad-mates be the firing squad.