US Army prosecutors charged a sixth soldier on Tuesday for his involvement in a murder plot that led to the deaths of three Afghan civilians. Staff Sgt. David Bram of Joint Base Lewis-McChord [official website] is charged [Reuters report] with solicitation to commit premeditated murder, failure to report crimes including murder, planting evidence near the body of an Afghan national, unlawfully engaging in murder scenario conversations with subordinates and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. Bram is the sixth soldier from the 5th Stryker Brigade to be charged in connection with the three Afghan deaths, which took place between January and May of last year in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. A military investigation revealed that soldiers from the brigade had been plotting since 2009 to kill unarmed Afghans and stage them to look like casualties of combat. Another soldier, Specialist Jeremy Morlock [JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in March to three counts of murder as well as single counts of assault, conspiracy, obstructing justice and illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. Morlock described Bram's involvement in his plea agreement [AP report], claiming that Bram overhead other soldiers planning civilian deaths and told Morlock that it was clear to go ahead with one of the killings in January 2010. Bram faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted of all charges against him.
This does not mark the first time Bram will face charges before a military tribunal for misconduct. Bram was court-martialed in November [JURIST report] for charges unrelated to the murders. He was accused of severely beating an Army private in his unit to keep the soldier from informing superiors about alleged drug abuse within the unit. The charges included conspiracy to commit assault and battery, unlawfully striking another soldier, violating a lawful order, dereliction of duty, cruelty, maltreatment and endeavoring to impede an investigation. The probe into 12 members of the 5th Stryker Brigade regarding the civilian deaths began in May 2010 [JURIST report]. Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens, another member of the brigade, pleaded guilty in December [JURIST report] to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers following a plea agreement that will allow him to remain in the military after serving a nine month sentence and testifying against other soldiers accused of terrorizing civilians.