US Sergeant denies killing Afghan civilians, admits to cutting off fingers - 11-11-2011, 07:41 AM
Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs’ surprise testimony came a week after his court martial began. It is the first time Gibbs has publicly presented his version of what happened with the platoon he led from the Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade.
He is the highest-ranking soldier charged in what prosecutors say was a rogue “kill squad” that allegedly targeted Afghan civilians and made it look like they’d been insurgents.
Gibbs has pleaded not guilty.
Twelve soldiers have been charged in the case. Three have pleaded guilty to murders and agreed to testify against fellow soldiers. Another six have been convicted of lesser crimes.
More about the allegations against the Stryker Brigade
Besides the murders, Gibbs also has been charged with removing body parts from his alleged victims, such as teeth and fingers, to keep as souvenirs; planting “drop weapons” to fake attacks on soldiers; and intimidating several of his own unit members to prevent them from speaking out against the unit’s alleged murder plots and rampant drug use.
Having already served a tour in Iraq, Gibbs was on his second tour in Afghanistan when he took over the brigade’s 3rd platoon. Its previous leader lost a leg in a roadside bombing, an attack that Gibbs said adversely affected his morale and others.
“I should’ve been on the truck that day,” he testified Friday.
Soldiers from his platoon testified during the court martial for Gibbs — who stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall and has told investigators that his six skull tattoos are to track his kills in Iraq and Afghanistan — that he called Afghans “savages,” talked about how he killed civilians in Iraq and told them they should not hesitate to fire when in a difficult spot.
This photo from the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Calvin Gibbs’ tattoos that are suspected to represent his “kills.”
“If they are put in a tight situation, don’t not pull the trigger,” Gibbs said he advised members of his new platoon. “You won’t go to jail for it.”
He testified Friday about telling soldiers serving under him in Afghanistan how he “lit … up” a car coming toward him in Iraq, while he was manning a nighttime checkpoint. Inside the car was an unarmed Iraqi family, Gibbs said.
He recalled how, immediately after this shooting, another soldier called him a “sicko” and said he would “fry” for the family’s deaths. But his superiors later told him he would not face charges, Gibbs’ testified.
Another soldier — Private Jeremy Morlock — testified that Gibbs bragged about the Iraq killings and claimed the incident showed that troops could target civilians without facing repercussions.
Morlock is serving a 24-year sentence for the killing of three Afghan civilians. He agreed to testify against other soldiers as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. Gibbs’ attorney said Morlock and other soldiers who have testified against Gibbs did so to save themselves from longer jail sentences.
The defendant, himself, insisted Friday that never murdered civilians in Afghanistan.
Still, Gibbs did admit that — in January 2010 — he removed fingers from the body of a dead Afghan man, which is against Army regulations. The man is one of three Gibbs is accused of murdering.
He testified about later giving the fingers to the soldier that prosecutors say shot the man, in part because “people wanted to prove they were there.”
“I was numb to the situation,” Gibbs told the court about why he had ripped the fingers from the corpse. “I wasn’t thinking, it’s sickening. I am embarrassed.”
Defense attorney Phillip Stackhouse showed a photo of Gibbs and two other soldiers posing with the body of a different Afghan man. Gibbs has been charged with shooting that man in February 2010 in cold blood and planting an AK-47 near the body to make it look as if the man was an insurgent.
Morlock, who is also in the photo, testified previously that Gibbs fired the weapon to make it look like they had come under attack first.
On Friday, Gibbs maintained the man had fired on the three soldiers as they patrolled a village in Kandahar Province, insisting he shot back to protect himself and fellow soldiers.
“He got the drop on me,” Gibbs testified. “He engaged me with two to three rounds” before the man’s weapon malfunctioned.
The staff sergeant admitted to using shears to cut off this man’s finger after killing him, saying, “That was the finger he tried to kill me with, I was pretty pissed off about it.”
Speaking in a calm, steady voice throughout his day-long testimony, the staff sergeant denied testimony from fellow soldiers that he goaded his men into targeting civilians and employed “off the books” weapons.
He also denied murdering a third man — the mullah of a village, who two fellow soldiers have testified Gibbs killed with a grenade — in March 2010. Yet Gibbs acknowledged he cut off out one of that man’s fingers.
“I compared it to keeping antlers off a deer,” the staff sergeant testified, saying he agreed to let his soldiers take their own “trophies.” “I didn’t want to disappoint them. I didn’t want to come across as a pussy, which I am not.”
Gibbs also admitted Friday to taking part in the beating of Pvt. Justin Stoner, who complained about other soldiers smoking hashish in his room. For good measure, Gibbs said he showed Stoner several dead men’s severed fingers and told him, “Better not to talk.”
But Stoner did talk, telling investigators that Gibbs’ platoon had begun making up their own missions and selecting their own targets.
Military judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said the case — to be decided by a five-person panel including three military officers and two enlisted personnel — should be over by the end of next week. If convicted on all counts, Gibbs could face a life sentence in military prison.
“I am terrified,” the staff sergeant said Friday, when asked by his attorney about how he felt about testifying.
Sergeant denies killing Afghan civilians, admits to cutting off fingers - Page 3 - CNN
11-11-2011, 02:13 PM
Gibbs, along with Morlock [shown in this picture from Der Spiegel] took body parts of murdered civilians as trophies
A US army sergeant has been convicted of murdering unarmed civilians and cutting fingers from their corpses as ringleader of a rogue platoon in Afghanistan's south.
But the jury at a court-martial hearing on Thursday decided against the automatic life sentence for Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 26, saying he would be eligible for parole after serving eight and a half years.
The alleged ring leader of “kill team” was found guilty on all 15 counts, including three charges of premeditated murder in southern Afghanistan between January and May last year.
The verdict and sentence marked the culmination of an 18-month investigation of the most egregious atrocities that US military personnel have been convicted of committing during a decade of war in Afghanistan.
Pentagon officials have said the misconduct exposed by the case, which evolved from an investigation of drug abuse within Gibbs' Stryker Brigade infantry unit, damaged the US image around the globe.
Photographs entered as evidence in the case showed Gibbs and other soldiers casually posing with bloodied Afghan corpses, drawing comparisons with the inflammatory Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in 2004.
The decisions by the jury panel - two enlisted personnel and three officers - followed a week and a half of testimony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.
Gibbs, who has denied committing murder, declined to speak before sentencing.
His civilian lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, asked the panel for leniency in its parole decision, saying Gibbs had ample time for reflection during his pre-trial confinement and "is not the same person he was when he went to Afghanistan".
He said his client wished for the chance to be reunited with his young son at some point in the future.
Major Dre Leblanc, a military prosecutor, argued against parole, reminding the panel that Gibbs had often said of the Afghan people he terrorised: "These people are all savages, look at how they live."
Gibbs was convicted on three counts of premeditated murder in the slayings of Afghan villagers last year that were disguised as legitimate combat engagements.
Prosecutors said he acted as the chief instigator behind those killings and other assaults by members of his self-described "kill team."
Besides charges of murder, conspiracy and other offenses, he was found guilty of beating a soldier who reported hashish use to superiors and of military code violations for cutting fingers off bodies as war trophies.
A single count of threatening another soldier was dismissed earlier this week.
Gibbs insisted two of the killings for which he was charged were in self-defence and that he played no role in the other. He denied allegations of planting weapons near the bodies.
Testifying in his own defence last Friday, Gibbs said he had "disassociated" himself from his actions while in combat and likened the removal of fingers from dead bodies to the taking of antlers from a deer.
Prosecution witnesses portrayed Gibbs as a blood-thirsty renegade who intimidated fellow soldiers and harboured a deep, ethnic hatred of the very people US troops were sent to protect from Taliban forces.
His chief accuser was the ex-corporal described as Gibbs' right-hand man, Jeremy Morlock, who pleaded guilty to murder for his role in the same three killings and was sentenced in March to 24 years in prison under a deal with prosecutors to obtain his co-operation in the case.
Five soldiers in all from the infantry unit formerly called the 5th Stryker Brigade were accused of murder, although Gibbs and Morlock were the only charged with more than one killing
11-11-2011, 11:10 PM
11-11-2011, 11:22 PM
"But the jury at a court-martial hearing on Thursday decided against the automatic life sentence for Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 26, saying he would be eligible for parole after serving eight and a half years."
Consider that - eight and a half years!!! This is what they call "justice". My view is simple - This man committed these atrocious crimes against Afghan people on Afghan soil. WHY should he be subjected to his own people's legal system and stand trial in his own people's courts?? He should face the punishment of AFGHAN people and face the due consequences.
11-11-2011, 11:26 PM
They are leaving Iraq since Iraqis didn't agree to signing a treaty where US soldiers can't be prosecuted in Iraq for war crimes. I don't think the karakul wearing Jinnah of Kabul has the spine to do any thing of the sort.
11-11-2011, 11:37 PM
unfortunately, there will still be thousands of soldiers and security contractors left behind in iraq as "embassy staff" or whatever bogus title they choose.
i am willing to bet that this ****head, gibbs, will be out sooner than 8 years. when in prison he will be treated like a king because of his military stature.
where is mr. centcom, noorzai? the guy who's nappy head is used as a toilet brush at forward operating base latrines.
- Malcolm X
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