unavailable witnesses and evidence


HONOLULU — A Marine stationed in Hawaii pleaded guilty to possession unlawful firearms during a military court hearing Tuesday for allegations he tried to bring weapons onto an Air Force base while home in Nebraska.

Ali Al-kazahg’s sentence includes a bad conduct discharge, reduction in rank from private first class to private and three years of confinement, said Capt. Eric Abrams, a Marine Corps spokesman. Al-kazahg will receive credit for 288 days he has already served.

Al-kazahg, 22, was visiting Nebraska, where he grew up, when guards stopped his pickup May 31 at an Offutt Air Force Base gate after seeing his name on a law enforcement “be on the lookout” bulletin.

He also pleaded guilty to making false official statements and fraudulent enlistment. When he enlisted, he withheld information about his past, including a previous arrest, suspension from school and being fired from a job, Abrams said. The false statements stem from “purposefully misleading government officials” in his chain of command and at Offutt, Abrams said.

Al-kazahg waived a preliminary hearing in August and a military officer recommended that there should be a court-martial for charges including carrying a concealed weapon, possessing modified firearms, making threats and fraudulent enlistment.

The Michigan-born, Nebraska-raised son of Iraqi refugees is the target of racism, his sister, Nedhal Al-kazahy, said previously. She said military authorities overreacted when her brother went to the base to work out while his personal weapons were in his truck.

The siblings’ last names are spelled differently because of a birth certificate mix-up, she said.

She said Tuesday from Lincoln, Nebraska, that her brother was treated unfairly. “No matter what you do in life if you are a person of color it’s always going to be 10 times harder for you,” she said. “You have to work 10 times harder than the person who is white.”

The Marine Corps said in a statement that an investigation found the accusations of discrimination were not substantiated.

“The Marine Corps does not tolerate racism or bullying and expects all Marines to act in a professional manner, maintain an atmosphere of dignity and respect, and ensure an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and assault,” the statement said.

Nedhal Al-kazahy called her brother’s sentence upsetting. “He worked so hard to be where he is in the military,” she said.


By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: January 14, 2020

A soldier convicted of a sex crime is arguing that testimony explaining the military’s sexual assault prevention training “unfairly prejudiced” a jury, documents filed to the nation’s highest military court say.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will hold a hearing Wednesday to decide whether Pvt. Tyler Washington’s conviction for abusive sexual contact, confinement for 30 days and bad conduct discharge were fair.

Washington and another soldier were privates at their first duty station when they met at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2016. They were kissing on a bed when the other soldier said she was uncomfortable and told him to stop.

“Shush; just let it happen,” Washington replied, according to court documents.

He then covered her mouth with his hand, undid his pants and continued, kissing her body as she tried to wriggle away and told him twice more to stop, until he was interrupted by a knock on the door, court documents said.

It happened a week after required Sexual Assault Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training, typically called SHARP, that discussed consent.

SHARP testimony at Washington’s 2017 sexual assault court-martial was allowed, after Washington’s lawyer indicated his defense would be that Washington had mistakenly but reasonably believed his accuser had consented to him kissing her genitals over her pants.

Prosecutors called the SHARP trainer to testify to the education Washington and others had received.

What did the training say soldiers should do if one person said “no” while engaged in kissing and caressing?

The other should “stop, walk away,” Sgt. 1st Class Wilfredo Rivera testified.

That testimony was “likely to confuse the (jury) members as to the legal ‘reasonableness’ standard,” Capt. Zachary Gray, Washington’s lawyer, wrote in his brief to the court. It “unfairly prejudiced Pvt. Washington by injecting the spectre of command at his trial” and should not have been allowed into evidence by the military judge.

Gray added that although the woman asked Washington to stop, he “would not have been able to understand her because her voice was muffled by his hand.”

Army appellate lawyers said in briefs that Rivera’s testimony was relevant and “limited to the purpose of rebutting the defense of reasonable mistake of fact.”

“Furthermore, even if the military judge did commit error, there was no prejudice given the use of the evidence, the military judge’s instructions, and the overall weight of the government’s evidence which resulted in appellant’s conviction,” Capt. Christopher Leighton wrote.

The woman reported to authorities that night that she’d been assaulted and later texted Washington to ask why he had not stopped despite her repeated pleas.

“I thought that was one of those moments when the person says stop but they want to keep going,” he replied, according to court documents. “Been with people like that before sorry.”

Lt. Col. Deric Prescott, the former staff judge advocate at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, will be dismissed from the Air Force after he was convicted at court-martial of attempted larceny during a permanent change-of-station move and making a false official statement.

On Nov. 8, Prescott was convicted of one count and one specification of making a false official statement, a violation of Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and one count and one specification of attempted larceny of an amount greater than $500 from the moving company Total Moving Management, a violation of Article 80 of the UCMJ, the 21st Space Wing said in an email Monday.

Stephen Brady, a spokesman for the 21st, said in the email that Prescott was found not guilty of a third charge of stealing more than $500 from another moving company during another PCS move. He was also found not guilty of three other specifications of making a false official statement.

Brady later said that the false statement for which Prescott was convicted was a claim that an electrical item’s screen had been smashed in and otherwise damaged.

The former staff judge advocate at Minot Air Force Base has been charged with filing false claims that household items were damaged during permanent change-of-station moves. (Airman 1st Class Gul Crockett/Air Force)

The former staff judge advocate at Minot Air Force Base faces an Article 32 hearing next month stemming from alleged fraudulent claims on damaged household items and lying to investigators.

On Dec. 30, Prescott was sentenced to be dismissed from the Air Force, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge, Brady said.

Prescott’s attorney, Frank Spinner, said Tuesday he will appeal his conviction to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. Spinner said that during his appeal Prescott will challenge the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him.

“It was a very long and hard-fought trial,” Spinner said. “We presented a strong defense and are disappointed in the outcome. We fully hope he will be vindicated on appeal.”

Prescott allegedly filed “a household goods claim [in 2017] which included items for which [he] was not entitled claims payment and would have resulted in such payment” if Total Military Management hadn’t noticed similarities between that and previous claims in 2011 and 2014.

As staff judge advocate, Prescott served as the top lawyer at Minot, providing legal assistance and advice to commanders, first sergeants and other supervisors there. The legal office he oversaw also handled military justice for courts-martial and non-judicial punishment actions, as well as assisting service members, retirees and family members on personal, non-criminal legal matters such as wills.

WASHINGTON — A Navy chief petty officer has been confined to the Pearl Harbor naval brig on Ford Island in Hawaii after pleading guilty to charges of child sexual abuse and possessing child pornography, according to a Navy spokeswoman.

Matthew Lee Richardson, a cryptologic technician [collection] at U.S. Pacific Fleet, pleaded guilty at a Dec. 10 court-martial to two counts of sexual abuse of a child and one count for possessing child pornography, according to Lydia Robertson, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Hawaii.

A redacted charge sheet from Navy Region Hawaii states that between October 2018 and March 2019 in Oahu, Richardson encouraged a child younger than 16 years old “to take her underwear off and walk around the room.” The charge sheet also states that in March he intentionally touched the genitalia and buttocks of a child younger than 16 years old “with an intent to gratify his sexual desire.”

His possession of child pornography charge was from April 27, 2018, according to the document.

Richardson was sentenced to eight years of confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge by military judge, Capt. Ann Minami, Robertson said.

As part of a pre-trial agreement, Richardson’s confinement was reduced to five years. Where Richardson will serve the bulk of his confinement has not been determined, Robertson said.

Upon his release, Richardson will be required to register as a sex offender.

Richardson, a native of Virginia, enlisted in the Navy on April 20, 2004, and he arrived at U.S. Pacific Fleet on Oct. 3, 2016, according to his military record provided by the Navy.



ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday a seaman will face a court martial on murder and other charges in the death of a fellow seaman during a night of drinking in Alaska.

Ethan Tucker is charged with the January death of 19-year-old Seaman Ethan Kelch of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Military prosecutors allege the 21-year-old Tucker, of Ludington, Michigan, beat Kelch and left him in frigid water, where he drowned.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey said the court martial is expected to take place in 2020.

Along with murder, the charges against Tucker include involuntary manslaughter and making a false official statement.

The decision on a court martial came about a month after Tucker was released from a San Diego brig after an admiral overseeing his prosecution ordered a new hearing that took place earlier this month.

The Coast Guard said the court martial decision was made Dec. 23 after a review of the hearing report. Tucker remains restricted to a base in Alameda.

Tucker’s attorney, Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson, said he is confident his client will be vindicated.

A search was launched for Kelch when he failed to return Jan. 26 from liberty. He was found unresponsive the next day along shore and pronounced dead at a clinic.

During an October hearing, a lawyer for Tucker said a bystander took video that night showing Tucker’s efforts to get Kelch out of the water.

Henderson has said the videos also show Kelch had repeatedly tried to go into the water.

Soon after the October hearing, a military official overseeing the case sent the charges back to prosecutors for amendments that included the deleting of statements that Tucker had placed Kelch in the water.

The charging document still states that Tucker showed a wanton disregard for human life when he caused blunt force trauma to Kelch’s head and left him in water. The charges also say Tucker lied when he said he injured his hand by punching a steel bulkhead.