- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

HANAU, Germany — A U.S. Army tank company commander accused of murdering a man in Iraq fatally shot him out of pity for his injuries, a witness testified yesterday at hearings to determine whether he should face a court-martial.

Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, of Chicago, is accused of killing a driver for militant Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr while on patrol May 21 near Kufa, south of Baghdad. He has denied the charges of murder and dereliction of duty.

His unit spotted a speeding sedan believed to be carrying al-Sadr militiamen, and a chase ensued. U.S. soldiers fired shots at the vehicle, wounding the driver and a passenger.

Yesterday, military prosecutors presented statements made to investigators by a subordinate, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin, who said Capt. Maynulet told him that “they pulled out the driver” and that the man “had half his brain hanging out.”

“Nothing could be done for him and at that point Capt. Maynulet told you he stepped back and shot him in the base of the neck or back of the head,” said prosecutor Capt. Daniel Sennott, quoting Lt. Cremin’s earlier statement.

Lt. Cremin confirmed the statement. At another point, he described the act as a mercy killing.

“It was something he didn’t want to do, but it was the compassionate response. It was definitely the human response,” Lt. Cremin said.

He testified that it was impossible to transport the injured man to get medical care, because “it would have compromised the lives of the soldiers.”

Prosecutors cited other incidents in which, they maintained, Capt. Maynulet broke military rules.

They said he had carried a nonregulation weapon and once broke into an Iraqi police station to retrieve an identification card for a civilian contractor.

However, several witnesses, including officers and enlisted soldiers who served with him, described Capt. Maynulet as a calm man who was willing to help Iraqis.

The driver whom Capt. Maynulet is accused of killing was identified by relatives as Karim Hassan, 36. His family does not dispute that he was working for Sheik al-Sadr.

An unmanned military aircraft caught the killing on tape and that recording was introduced into evidence yesterday, military spokesman Maj. Michael Indovina said.

Reporters were asked to leave as an expert witness in neurosurgery viewed the tape because the hearing officer, Maj. Michael J. Fadden, said it might show the capabilities of U.S. technology in Iraq.

The Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a U.S. grand jury investigation, is scheduled to end tomorrow.

At the last round of hearings in July, Capt. Maynulet’s former commander, Col. Michael Ryan, testified that he was an “excellent officer” who was “special, trustworthy and honest.” Capt. Maynulet said he was confident the charges would be dropped.

Capt. Maynulet’s command of his tank company was suspended May 25 but he remains with his unit, serving on the division’s planning staff.

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