Military judge Colonel David Conn sentenced Specialist Adam Winfield to three years in prison, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge on Friday for involuntary manslaughter in the death of an Afghan civilian. Winfield pleaded guilty [AP report] to involuntary manslaughter and to smoking hashish. Winfield, who has already spent a year in custody, was originally charged with premeditated murder and could have faced life in prison. He is one of five 5th Stryker Brigade soldiers accused in three civilian deaths during patrols in Afghanistan in January, February and May of last year. Winfield's charges stem from his failure to intervene and prevent the other soldiers from attacking Afghan civilians. Winfield notified his family about the killings who then informed the authorities. The Army took no action until they learned of the killings from a second source. Winfield will testify as a witness against the remaining defendants.
Winfield is the latest soldier to be sentenced in the probe into 12 members of the 5th Stryker Brigade regarding the civilian deaths began in May 2010 [JURIST report]. In May, US army prosecutors charged Staff Sgt. David Bram [JURIST report] of Joint Base Lewis-McChord [official website] with solicitation to commit premeditated murder, failure to report crimes including murder, planting evidence near the body of an Afghan national, unlawfully engaging in murder scenario conversations with subordinates and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. Bram was court-martialed in November [JURIST report] for charges unrelated to the murders. He was accused of severely beating an Army private in his unit to keep the soldier from informing superiors about alleged drug abuse within the unit. The charges included conspiracy to commit assault and battery, unlawfully striking another soldier, violating a lawful order, dereliction of duty, cruelty, maltreatment and endeavoring to impede an investigation. Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens, another member of the brigade, pleaded guilty in December [JURIST report] to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers following a plea agreement that will allow him to remain in the military after serving a nine month sentence and testifying against other soldiers accused of terrorizing civilians.