Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Widow says Army denies capt. was murdered

Sues for trial record after accused was acquitted in ’08
By Joe Gould - Staff writer

Posted : Monday Mar 28, 2011 5:01:29 EDT
The widow of a West Point graduate killed in Iraq says the Army is adding to her anguish by denying her husband was murdered.

Siobhan Esposito says the Army, after it lost the capitol murder trial against her husband’s accused killer, is denying her husband’s death was by murder to deny her a record of the proceeding.

Capt. Phillip Esposito, a company commander in Tikrit, died there in 2005. Then-Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, a subordinate of Esposito’s, was charged in his death and acquitted in a 2008 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“To be frank, I find the Army’s denial ridiculous and offensive,” Siobhan Esposito, of Suffern, N.Y., said in an email to Army Times. “I went to court with the Army to obtain documents relating to my husband’s murder, and I am now compelled to argue that he was the victim of murder.”

Siobhan Esposito’s mission to obtain court records in her husband’s death will proceed after U.S. District Judge John D. Bates denied the Army’s request earlier this month to dismiss her freedom-of-information lawsuit.

She asserted in her lawsuit against the Army that her husband was murdered in 2005 when a Claymore mine was placed in the window of his office. The Army, in its response, conceded only that he “died while in his office and on active military duty in Tikrit, Iraq.”

Esposito, in a blog she maintains, called the denial “absurd on its face, offensive to Phillip’s memory, and disrespectful to my grief and the grief of Phillip’s family.”

“Phillip did not merely die in his office as if from a cold, a slip, or a spoiled MRE,” she wrote.
Jurors heard from witnesses at the court-martial who said Martinez threatened to kill Phillip Esposito.
Operations officer 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, of Milford, Pa., was also killed. All three men were part of the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard, based in Troy, N.Y.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Martinez said he felt violent urges toward his commander, who had dressed him down over his handling of the unit’s supply room, but there were no eyewitnesses directly linking Martinez to the two men’s deaths.

Martinez said after the trial that he was “very, very innocent.”

In an attempt to expose flaws in the criminal investigation and court-martial, Siobhan Esposito requested from the Army a complete transcript and audio recordings of the trial. She filed her lawsuit Jan. 19 in a Washington, D.C., federal court after the Army denied her request.

“I will not be deterred in my pursuit of justice on behalf of our daughter, my husband’s memory and myself,” she said. “My husband’s murder demands transparency and accountability, and I shall not rest until I have it.”

The Army’s reply to the lawsuit argued that Esposito is not legally entitled to the records she requested. It notes that it already released 1,700 pages of edited transcripts, and that to review and release the 408 hours of audio recordings would take months.

Claire Whitaker, the assistant U.S. attorney arguing the case on behalf of the Army, through a spokesman declined to comment.

Bates ordered both parties to submit a briefing schedule to the court by March 25.

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