The attorney for an Army Green Beret major facing a murder trial for his alleged role in the death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker applauds “imminent action” expected from President Donald Trump in his client’s case.
Golsteyn faces a new trial date of Feb. 19, 2020, which has been rescheduled from his original Dec. 2 trial date, according to a release provided by his civilian defense attorney, Phillip Stackhouse.
Lawyers for the two soldiers told Army Times that they asked the president to disapprove the findings in one case and dismiss the charges in the other.
Trump’s involvement in the cases of Golsteyn, an Army lieutenant serving time in a military prison on a murder charge and a Navy SEAL acquitted of most of the charges against him in connection with the death of a wounded ISIS fighter in 2017, includes revelations by media reports that the president may pardon the trio by Veterans Day.
Military Times has reported that Defense Secretary Mark Esper will encourage the president to allow the military justice system to continue its process with the three men.
But Stackhouse and his client see Trump’s intervention as necessary in a prosecution they claim is illegitimate.
“It’s time to end this runaway prosecution which is contaminated by bogus ‘new’ evidence, compromised Taliban ‘witnesses’ purportedly found by a now-disgraced military investigator, and unproduced emails related to the case that go all the way to Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Stackhouse said. “The President’s action will allow us to set the record straight on this troubling prosecution.”
In early October, military prosecutors were granted motions they requested to travel to Afghanistan to interview new witnesses, likely family members of the deceased victim.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But in previous reporting on the Golsteyn case, USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer has told Army Times that Golsteyn continues to have access to legal counsel, that trials involve a number of procedural requirements and prosecutors will continue to comply with all rules of evidence and procedure.
Bymer deferred any comment regarding President Trump’s comments or potential actions to the White House.
The major had originally received a Silver Star medal that was in the works for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. But that medal was instead rescinded and his Special Forces tab stripped after admissions he made in a job interview with the CIA were shared with Army investigators.
Those statements include information that he killed an alleged Taliban bomb maker who had been released by Afghan authorities and they buried the body and later allegedly moved the body to burn it in a pit.
Golsteyn was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer by a board of inquiry and recommended for discharge. The board did not forward any other charges.
“Maj. Golsteyn was originally cleared in this incident for which he now stands accused. He should have been separated or medically retired because of service-related injuries and allowed to move on with his life and family," Stackhouse said. “Instead, the Army has secretly pursued him for seven years. The origination and true motivation of this prosecution remains a mystery.”
The major, his family and other supporters have encouraged Trump’s involvement. Golsteyn began a letter-writing campaign up the chain of command within weeks of his charging, seeking each successive level to dismiss the charges.
“My family and I are grateful that President Trump is taking action. His involvement is critical and urgently needed,” Golsteyn said. “We hope to get the good news soon. In the meantime, our family is so appreciative of the support we have received from around the nation from other military families and friends.”
Within days of the military’s charging Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 and recalling him to active duty, Trump had already tweeted about the 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 on Dec. 18, 2018.
And though Trump continued to tweet about other military justice cases, such as that of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted on one charge of taking a photo with a dead detainee, though he was acquitted by a jury in July of murder and related charges in the stabbing death of a wounded ISIS fighter in 2017.
Trump recently restored rank stripped from Gallagher and reports have emerged that the president may pardon Gallagher and Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who is serving a 19-year sentence in military prison after being convicted of murder when in 2012 he ordered his soldiers to fire upon unarmed Afghan motorcyclists.
Stackhouse laid out grievances in his client’s case, which include military judge Col. Tyesha Smith’s granting of the prosecutions request to continue to classify materials and to conduct late-stage interviews with undisclosed witnesses in Afghanistan.
The list also notes after-the-fact evidence classifying by the CIA of previously unclassified materials.
“In every respect, Maj. Golsteyn’s due process rights have been abused: the right to counsel, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to confront witnesses,” Stackhouse said. “The lack of accountability and secrecy by the Army prosecutors is astonishing. In the meantime, Maj. Golsteyn and his family live with constant uncertainty and in fear of this compromised, runaway prosecution.”