Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Department of Defense Inspector General Report on the Electrocution Death of Ryan Maseth

The Department of Defense has released its conclusions on the electrocution death of Ryan Maseth. You can download the .pdf file by going here.

Among the conclusions: "multiple systems and organizations failed..."

Part Two covers seventeen additional incidents of electrocution.

Download it here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

7 months after letter, mom of murdered Marine Sgt. Pietrzak gets form response from Obama aide

From the New York Daily News

BY Corky Siemaszko

Monday, July 27th 2009, 10:55 AM

Herryka Pietrzak-Vegas, the mother of murdered Marine Sgt. Pawel Pietrzak and his wife Quiana receieved a form letter response after she wrote President Obama.

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Seven months after she poured out her heartbreak in a wrenching letter to then President-elect Obama, the mother of murdered Brooklyn Marine Sgt. Jan Pawel Pietrzak finally got a response - a form letter.

"Thank you for contacting President Obama," the note to Henryka Pietrzak-Varga begins. "We hope the issue you brought to the President's attention has been resolved."

Pietrzak-Varga, whose son and daughter-in-law were tortured and murdered last year allegedly by four other Marines, told a Polish newspaper she doubts Obama saw her letter.

"This is a standard response, something that can be sent out to anyone for any matter," the disappointed mom told the Dziennik Wschodni newspaper.

"What am I supposed to make of, 'We hope the issue has been resolved?' What does this mean? That somebody will give me my son back?"

The June 19 letter from White House aide F. Michael Kelleher arrived amid pre-trial hearings of the accused Marines, all of whom have pleaded not guilty to robbing and killing the sergeant and his wife, Quiana, in October 2008.

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors insist the Pietrzaks were slain for their money, but a homicide investigator has testified the Marines spray-painted racist remarks in the couples' California home.

Polish-born Pietrzak, 24, was white and raised in Bensonhurst. His 26-year-old wife was black. So are the charged Marines.

In her November 2008 letter to Obama, Pietrzak-Varga opened with the words: "Dear President-elect Barack Obama, they killed my son."

Pietrzak-Varga then asked for help in getting to the bottom of the "bestial" murders.

"Death at war at the hands of an enemy is, for a soldier, a patriotic honor," she wrote in Polish. "The death of a soldier in his country and at the hands of his own soldiers ... is a source of endless suffering for his family."

Pietrzak-Varga went on to write that "My son's wife was raped in a bestial way, most likely as my son looked on helplessly."

"Why did this happen? What motivated them? What was it about my son and daughter-in-law that inspired such hatred and loathing?"

In his five-paragraph reply, Kelleher apologized for the delay in getting back to her and urged the Brooklyn mom to send an "updated description of your issue" if "you still need help with a Federal agency."

Kelleher also provided a Web address.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Monday, July 13, 2009

Soldier sentenced to three years, dishonorable discharge for manslaughter

Stars and Stripes

Mideast edition, Monday, July 13, 2009

A U.S. soldier who the military says fatally shot a fellow soldier in Iraq by accident has been sentenced to three years’ confinement but will serve 30 months.

On July 11, Sgt. Miguel A. Vegaquinones also received a reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge in the death of Pfc. Sean McCune, according to a news release issued by Multi-National Corps—Iraq.

Vegaquinones negligently fired a round from his weapon on Jan. 11 in Samarra after completing guard duty, officials say.

He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Under a pre-trial agreement, his sentence was limited to 30 months’ confinement and a charge of making a false official statement was dismissed.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ confinement, and making a false official statement, up to five years.

McCune had been in Iraq for about a month, officials say.

Both Vegaquinones and McCune were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. But Vegaquinones was temporarily attached to the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company pending the outcome of the case.

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals automatically reviews all cases in which U.S. Army soldiers are sentenced to confinement of more than a year.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Army Releases June Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data for the month of June today. Among active-duty soldiers there were no confirmed suicides and nine potential suicides. In May, the Army reported one confirmed suicide and 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since that time, seven have been confirmed and nine remain under investigation.

There have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army during calendar year 2009. Of these, 54 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 67 confirmed suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During June 2009, among reserve component soldiers not on active duty, there were no confirmed suicides and two potential suicides; to date, among that same group, there have been 16 confirmed suicides and 23 potential suicides currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 29 confirmed suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty.

"Every soldier suicide is different and tragic in its own way," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "Our current research and prevention efforts are identifying common denominators that lead soldiers to take their own life. It's often a combination of many factors that overwhelm an individual.

"Although suicide can impact anyone, we're finding that male soldiers, in combat-arms occupational specialties, between ages 18 and 27 are more vulnerable," McGuire said. "That's why we're looking at existing programs and other institutional safety nets to see what works, and what needs to be changed to enhance the support network of trained leaders and behavioral healthcare providers who can identify and treat risk factors before young soldiers get to the point where they feel there's no way out."

The Army will complete the second phase of a three-phased service-wide suicide stand-down and chain teach program, July 15, 2009. Phases one and two included an interactive training program, that features a video, and a small unit leader training effort which began on February 15, 2009. The third phase of the Army program will include sustained annual suicide prevention training for all soldiers, emphasizing common causes of suicidal behavior and the critical role Army leaders, friends, co-workers and families play in maintaining behavioral health.

The Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force will continue implementation of the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention to further enhance suicide prevention and behavioral health programs that directly affect our Army community and save soldiers' lives.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance should contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 800-342-9647, their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/resources.aspx.

The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/ .

Source: Department of Defense Announcement

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sailor gunned down on sentry duty, Navy says

Story Highlights

•Fire was set to cover up shooting, U.S. Navy says

•Seaman August Provost's death being investigated as homicide

•Congressman calls for investigation of possible hate crime

•Body was discovered at 3:30 a.m., during Provost's shift on sentry duty

By Taylor Gandossy

(CNN) -- A sailor found dead earlier this week at California's Camp Pendleton was shot while standing sentry, and a fire was set in an attempt to cover up evidence, the U.S. Navy said.

Seaman August Provost, shown on his MySpace page, was killed while on sentry duty at Camp Pendleton.

The death of Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, is being investigated as a homicide, Capt. Matt Brown told reporters on Thursday. A sailor is in custody in the case, Brown said.

Although at least one of Provost's relatives said she believes he was killed because of his sexual orientation and his race, Brown said there was no indication the killing was a hate crime. A U.S. congressman also said on Friday there are indications Provost may have been killed because of his sexual orientation.

Provost was killed while he was standing guard as a sentry for the Assault Craft Unit 5 compound at Camp Pendleton, Brown said. He had begun the shift at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, and his body was discovered by his replacement around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"Preliminarily, it appears that Seaman Provost suffered gunshot wounds and it appears that someone attempted to destroy evidence by lighting a fire at Seaman Provost's assigned place of duty," Brown said.

Provost's aunt, Rose Roy, of Beaumont, Texas, said by telephone on Friday that her nephew had told her he was being harassed because of his sexual orientation and because he was African-American. She described him as bisexual.

"He mentioned it to me and a couple other family members," she said of the harassment, and said he had first told her about it sometime last year.

XETV: Sailor's slaying may be hate crime

"He was frustrated by it," she said. She said she had advised him to speak to someone of higher rank, but said she wasn't sure if he had done so.

"He went to serve and protect, but he didn't get the protection," she said. Brown said Thursday that he had no information on claims of harassment.

Asked whether she believed her nephew was killed because of race and sexual orientation, she said, "In my heart, I do." She added, "it was like an execution-style killing, and nobody does that unless you have that kind of hatred in your heart."

The Navy has one sailor in custody who "has been linked to the commission of this crime through both physical evidence and his own statement," Brown said.

He did not identify the sailor, who has not been charged with wrongdoing. It is unclear if the sailor served with Provost in the same unit.

A second sailor whom authorities initially questioned has since been released, Brown said.

He said the Navy has no indication that Provost's death is a hate crime, although he emphasized the investigation is ongoing.

"What I can tell you, unequivocally at this point, based on the preliminary information that we have, is that regardless of the person standing watch in that sentry station, this crime would have most likely been carried out in the same way," he said.

"In other words, another sailor could have been on that post and would have been the victim of this crime."

Rep. Bob Filner, a California Democrat, has called for a full and transparent investigation. Asked Friday if Provost was killed because of his sexual orientation, he said, "There are indications that that's the case. His family says he was harassed."

Filner said he was on Camp Pendleton hours after Provost's body was found, although no one told him of the killing.

"When I was on the base for another event, the commander of the base was sitting next to me and never mentioned a word, which I find very strange," he said.

He said he was asking for the "truth of what happened."

"We're going to ask, if I may coin a phrase, and we hope that they tell," he said.

Roy said her nephew was "a good kid," who didn't have a "bad bone in his body" and had loved the Navy. He joined the service in March 2008, according to Brown.

"He was a people person," Roy said. "If he could give you the shirt off his back, he would."

A funeral has been planned for July 10 in Houston, she said.

"We loved him dearly," she said.