Attorneys in the murder case against an Army Green Beret major are headed to Afghanistan to interview the deceased man’s family members as the trial nears at the end of the year.
Army Judge Col. Tyesha Smith granted government prosecutors’ request to conduct the depositions within the next 30 days as the trial is scheduled to commence at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Dec. 2.
The interviews, which will also include civilian and military defense attorneys for Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, are part of an effort in which prosecutors are trying to prove at trial that the man who was killed during Golsteyn’s 2010 deployment was not a Taliban bombmaker, but was simply a poor farmer named Rasoul with no connection to the Taliban.
“Rasoul was not a bombmaker,” Maj. Brent Goodwin told the judge in an evidentiary hearing Monday at Fort Bragg.
Military defense attorney Capt. Nina Hillner objected to Goodwin’s characterization, noting in the hearing that the investigation had shown Rasoul’s brother was a Taliban member.
U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer verified events from the hearing, which Army Times did not attend.
Philip Stackhouse, civilian defense attorney for Golsteyn, called the prosecution’s actions, “Kafkaesque,” a reference to oppressive government interference in personal lives, in their move to take depositions in a war zone, where Golsteyn cannot confront his accusers at trial as he would be able to in the United States.
“The actions by the prosecutors here are Kafkaesque, but it’s real life and Major Golsteyn cannot close the book,” Stackhouse said. “Concerns for Afghan witness safety placed over the concerns of an American service member who has sacrificed significantly for his country.”
Goodwin requested to interview four individuals in Afghanistan connected to the case. Smith granted the request but limited the timeline to 30 days and only those four individuals.
The interviews come after Army CID special agent Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael P. Hessler testified that he had interviewed Rasoul’s son and cousin in Afghanistan and was to have interviewed the wife of the deceased man, but she was ill at the time of the visit.
Golsteyn was charged in December 2018 for the 2010 incident and recalled to active duty status. He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg.
At the time of the 2010 deployment, Golsteyn was a captain with the 3rd Special Forces Group during some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
His detachment and Marines under his command had suffered severe casualties and intense combat in their area.
A local man was identified by a village elder as a Taliban bombmaker. The man, later identified as Rasoul, was taken into custody by Afghan government forces but released a short time later. The informant feared he would retaliate.
Golsteyn told Army Times in an interview earlier this year that he killed the man but did not disclose details, pending the trial. He emphasized that it was a lawful killing under the rules of armed conflict.
The incident came under Army scrutiny only after the deployment when the major was interviewing with the CIA for a potential job.
Army investigators later contacted by the CIA then claimed that during the interview he recounted killing the alleged bombmaker and that he and two other soldiers retrieved the body and put it in a burn pit on the base.
Golsteyn denies the Army version of the interview and the incident, saying that the investigators misconstrued what was said.
Shortly after the initial investigation, an Army board of inquiry found Golsteyn had committed conduct unbecoming of an officer and recommended his discharge but did not recommend criminal charges.
Also, during the deployment, Golsteyn was awarded the Silver Star medal, which was being reviewed for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross. However, following the accusations and board of inquiry, the Silver Star was rescinded and he was stripped of his Special Forces tab.
The major remained in a sort of military limbo status, with his name on the roster but having resumed his civilian life with a job in the Washington, D.C., area.
He was charged in December 2018 and recalled to duty at Fort Bragg.
After Golsteyn was charged, in December 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would review the major’s case.
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder. He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” Trump tweeted.
In another twist in this case, in May the lead investigator against Golsteyn pleaded guilty to stolen valor charges. Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Delacruz admitted he had two specifications of violating Article 107, false official statement and three specifications of violating Article 134, wearing of unauthorized insignia, badges and ribbons.
Delacruz wore the following items, none of which he earned: Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Purple Heart medal. The sergeant first class also falsely submitted the Purple Heart in his military file for an E-7 and above promotion board.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.