A Navy SEAL who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the hazing death of a Green Beret staff sergeant while deployed to Africa has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, forfeiture of pay, reduction to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge.

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Tony E. DeDolph was one of four men charged in the death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali, on June 4, 2017. He pleaded guilty earlier this month rather than go to trial.

DeDolph is the third defendant to plead guilty in the death of Melgar, and all three have agreed to testify against the fourth defendent, a Marine Raider.

Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 1. He faces felony murder charges along with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, assault, hazing and burglary. If convicted of the murder charge, he would face a life sentence.

“While this was a guilty plea, to say we are disappointed about the sentence would be an understatement of epic proportions,” Phillip Stackhouse, DeDolph’s attorney, wrote in an email to Military Times.

Stackhouse noted that the jury deliberated on his client’s sentence for less time than it took the attorneys for both sides to argue their respective points. “… {I]t would have been virtually impossible for them to do more than a cursory review of the significant volume of evidence given to them just when they began,” he wrote.

Since jury deliberations are confidential, however, what was reviewed and why the jury handed down the sentence it did will likely remain unknown, Stackhouse wrote.

DeDolph faced a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison on the manslaughter charge. Through their attorneys and testimony, the former chief and his co-defendants have maintained that Melgar’s death was unintentional and the entire episode was a hazing incident gone tragically wrong.

Fellow SEAL Navy Chief SWO Adam C. Matthews and Marine Raider Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr., who had originally been charged with murder, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 2019.

Matthews, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault, obstruction of justice, unlawful entry and hazing, received one-year confinement and a bad conduct discharge.

Maxwell pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, hazing and making false official statements and received four years in prison.

All four defendents and Melgar were deployed to Mali to support counterterrorism operations in coordination with the U.S. Embassy there. The men lived in offsite housing, where the incident occurred.

DeDolph, Matthews and Maxwell all said that they, along with Madera-Rodriguez, planned ahead of time to break into Melgar’s room, duct tape him and video record him in a sexually embarrassing act.

The four planned their attack during an all-night bar-hopping and drinking session. At around 5 a.m., they used a sledgehammer to bust open Melgar’s door and surprise him as he slept.

DeDolph, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, subdued Melgar, placing him in a choke hold.

The other men held down Melgar’s arms and legs and began to duct tape him, according to testimony.

But seconds after being put in the choke hold, Melgar stopped breathing. The men later told investigators they immediately started lifesaving aid, but Melgar died a short time later at a medical facility.

The four men agreed to lie about what happened, with the two SEALs claiming they were doing “combatives” training with Melgar when he stopped breathing and not mentioning the Raiders’ involvement.

The entire incident was in retaliation for a perceived slight and ongoing tension between Melgar and some of the other men.

Melgar had told his wife in messages that he was fed up with juvenile behavior by some of the other team members, hated the deployment and wanted to come home.

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.

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