'Dope-smoking soldiers' testimony is unreliable, Afghan civilian killings case lawyer says

The attorney for a Stryker soldier accused of concocting schemes to kill civilians in Afghanistan turned the charges on his accusers Tuesday, arguing that it’s just as likely that his platoon mates were behind the crimes.

In a Joint Base Lewis-McChord court, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs’ attorney called those accusers “dope-smoking soldiers in a combat zone” who made unreliable statements to investigators when they painted Gibbs as the mastermind of plots to murder Afghans.

Prosecutors countered that the overwhelming weight of witness accounts describe Gibbs as the ringleader of a “kill team” at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan that murdered civilians for sport and kept trophies by cutting body parts from corpses.

“Sgt. Gibbs has natural leadership ability, but instead of doing good things with that ability, Gibbs wraps these soldiers into acts of unspeakable cruelty,” argued Army prosecutor Capt. Dre Leblanc.

Eleven of Gibbs’ platoon mates from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division await proceedings for alleged wrongdoing during their deployment. Five of them, including Gibbs, are accused of murder.

The hearing was Gibbs’ first public appearance since the Army charged him with war crimes in June. The broad-shouldered soldier from Billings, Mont., stood about a head above nearly everyone else in the courtroom. Gibbs’ wife, Chelsy, sat behind him in a row that also held his guards.

Gibbs, 25, spoke only to confirm that he understood the 16 crimes of which he is accused when Army investigating officer Col. Thomas Molloy detailed the charges. They include accusations that Gibbs participated in three murders, assaulted a fellow soldier, kept “off-the-books” weapons and violated a general order by holding on to body parts he allegedly collected from corpses.

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