ARMY HAS IT'S "O. J. MOMENT" - TWO
OFFICERS MURDERED - SUPPLY SERGEANT
WHO VOWED TO "FRAG" THEM ACQUITTED
AT COURT MARTIAL - WIDOWS CRY OUT IN
ANGUISH - JUDGE ORDERS FORT BRAGG
COURTROOM CLEARED - SSGT ALBERTO
MARTINEZ CAN LEAVE SERVICE - NEW YORK
GUARDSMAN "FREE" - ENLISTMENT OVER
Ask many of the troops - and at least two shocked and grieving Army widows - at Ft. Bragg, N.C. if they think SSGT Alberto Martinez has something in common with the infamous O.J. Simpson, and they'll say, "Yes. He got away with murder."
Courtroom observers were stunned that the 41 year-old New York National Guard supply sergeant got to walk out the door "scot free." The case against him was substantial. He was known to have threatened his company commander, CPT Phillip Esposito, telling one soldier he intended to "frag" the officer.
On the night of June 7, 2005, that's exactly what happened. Esposito and 1LT Louis Allen were playing the board game "Risk," when an explosion rocked the officer's room in Tikrit, Iraq. Within seconds, another big blast shook the camp as three grenades set up near the window exploded. Martinez was seen standing outside, just a few feet away, but confusion that the base was under rocket attack kept suspicion from him until later on, when investigators found fragments from a claymore mine and deduced the deaths had been a case of murder.
However, the defense was able to cast just enough doubt in the jury's mind that they did what only two percent (according to the Pentagon's own statistics) of military hand-picked panels ever do - they voted for acquittal.
SHOCK AND DISBELIEF IN COURTROOM AT "ACQUITTAL" VERDICT
The screams of anguish and disbelief from widows of two officers Martinez was accused of killing are understandable when you look at the mountain of circumstantial evidence that prosecutors produced against the surly NCO.
Martinez was by all accounts, a sub-standard supply sergeant. CPT Esposito had been on his case since before the 42nd Infantry Division soldier had arrived in Iraq for the noncom's failure to keep hand receipts and belligerent attitude towards any authority.
Court papers showed that Esposito had had enough, and was preparing to bounce Martinez out of the Guard. Since the sergeant's full-time National Guard job would end if he lost his supply position, his rage reportedly grew to the point he told another soldier he wanted to "frag" Esposito.
Martinez had the motive and the means to do so.
"CAN YOU GET ME SOME CLAYMORE MINES?"
MARTINEZ REPORTEDLY ASKED FELLOW SUPPLY SERGEANT
Another supply sergeant from a nearby unit in Tikrit testified Martinez asked her to get him some claymore mines. SSGT Amy Harlan told the court she dropped off three of the devices, plus some grenades, and heard Martinez exclaim: "These will be put to good use!"
Harlan failed to get a receipt herself for the explosive hardware, and that weakened the prosecution's case. Defense attorneys punched holes in her testimony, claiming other GI's in the unit might have been able to get their hands on claymores as well. No one was able to put Martinez together with a claymore or detonator switch.
Since the sergeant could have received the death penalty if convicted, the 14-member jury decided the prosecution had failed to prove Martinez guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."
A DUMB STATEMENT FROM ONE OF THE DEFENSE ATTORNEYS
Defense attorney Maj. Marc Cipriano inadvertently tossed fuel on the fire when he issued this incredible statement:
"We are pleased that the military justice system worked, and we are grateful for the representation and support of the defense team. Our sympathies go out to the families of the victims. This had been a very difficult process for everyone involved, and we are happy to be back together again as a family."
AS A FAMILY? Is he for real?
WIDOWS OF SLAIN OFFICERS CONVINCED MARTINEZ IS THE KILLER.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
The widows aren't buying any of Cipriano's boilerplate BS.
"This is the United States of America?" Sibohan Esposito cried out.
"You murdered my husband!" Barbara Allen shrieked, as Martinez slipped out of the courtroom.
Did the sergeant commit the premeditated murders he was accused of? We may never know for sure. But we do know this. O.J. Simpson got away with two murders. The question we face now is, did SSGT Martinez, as well?
Let us know your opinion at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.