The Army special agent who led the investigation of a Green Beret charged with the murder of an alleged Afghan bomb-maker now faces charges of stolen valor.
And both the Green Beret’s attorney and others in military legal circles say the charge could have a serious impact on the Army’s case against Maj. Mathew Golsteyn.
Based on that recent development and other allegations of case mismanagement, Golsteyn has waived his right to an Article 32, or probable cause hearing, and asked the government to speed up the trial process or dismiss the charges. On Thursday, Golsteyn also requested for a reassignment of military duty from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the Military District of Washington, D.C.
On Jan. 31, Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Delacruz, a special agent with Army Criminal Investigation Command, was charged with falsifying promotion files and other records by listing on at least three occasions a Purple Heart award that he never received and the “unauthorized wear” on other occasions of that ribbon, the Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Combat Action Badge, none of which he rated.
Army CID confirmed those details of the charges and a spokesman said in an email that “he has been suspended from duty since the allegations came to light in late 2018.”
The spokesman, Jeffrey Castro, declined further comment on the case.
A copy of the Delacruz charge sheet obtained by Army Times further verified details of the allegations he faces.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the Army’s Special Forces groups and associated units to which Golsteyn is assigned, did not respond to requests for comment.
Attempts by Army Times to reach Delacruz through social media and a listed phone number were unsuccessful.
Phillip Stackhouse, Golsteyn’s attorney, told Army Times that Delacruz was the investigator who interviewed key witnesses that led to the murder charge and was expected to be a main witness for the prosecution.
Colby Vokey, a former Marine Corps Judge Advocate General officer and now a civilian attorney practicing military law, told Army Times that the revelations that the lead investigator in Golsteyn’s case has alleged integrity issues were “shocking.”
“It is incredibly damaging to the case,” Vokey said. “That goes to the core of the integrity of CID. To me, it calls into question all of this new evidence they’ve brought against Matt Golsteyn.”
Vokey said that the prosecutor will likely try to keep the charges against Delacruz from coming into any future trial as evidence. But on the defense side, that information strikes at the credibility of the prosecution’s case.
“Part of your team has lied and cheated and violated what the Army holds most dear, which is integrity,” Vokey said.
And this has been no simple case from the beginning.
Golsteyn was serving as a Special Forces captain in Afghanistan in 2010 during some of the most intense fighting of the war.
He led not only his Operational Detachment Alpha team members, but also Marines and other troops in sections including Marjah, one of the major battles of the war. The unit lost multiple troops to IEDs and rooted out bombmakers and their materials routinely.
One such alleged bombmaker was captured and detained but due to Afghan policy was later released. A tribal elder who had helped identify the bombmaker feared for his life because the bombmaker had learned his identity.
Last week, Golsteyn told Army Times he later set an ambush near the house where extensive bomb-making materials linked to the individual had been discovered. When the man approached the house, he was killed. According to reports Golsteyn, and perhaps others, helped dispose of the body either by burning it or burying it or both.
The major declined to provide further details about the incident to Army Times.
But it was a 2011 job interview with the CIA that set off a chain of events that led to a murder charge this past December.
Golsteyn told Army Times that during the interview, the CIA agents asked if he had ever shot an unarmed person. In response to the question, the major told them about the bombmaker incident.
Later that year, information from the interview was relayed to Army CID, which opened an investigation. But Golsteyn claims that the investigator at that time was only able to view portions of a video recording of the interview and not hear his explanation of the incident in full context.
“This whole thing started with a lie,” Golsteyn told Army Times.
He claims that the initial investigators combined statements from the CIA interview into a false quote that he said he and members of his unit had taken the Afghan man to his home and assassinated him.
“That was cut and pasted and put in every brief, every report, for the first period,” he said.
After the investigation concluded, Golsteyn requested a board of inquiry, an administrative review by senior officers of an officer’s conduct that is in question.
That board recommended a general discharge and found no clear evidence that he had violated the rules of engagement during his deployment. During the same deployment, he was awarded the Silver Star medal for separate valorous actions.
At the same time the investigation and allegations swirled, the Silver Star was being considered for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor given by the Army.
But though he was cleared by the board of violating the law of armed conflict, the board did find his conduct as unbecoming an officer.
Not only was his Distinguished Service Cross denied, but then-Army Secretary John M. McHugh ordered that he be stripped of his Silver Star and his Special Forces Tab.
From that point on, Golsteyn has been in a sort of legal limbo. He requested discharge, but his packet has been held up for years, he said.
While still on the books as an Army major, he requested and was granted a leave status to pursue civilian employment. He relocated to the Northern Virginia area and has since remarried and fathered a child in recent months.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has been publicly outspoken in support of Golsteyn, calling on the Army to dismiss charges against him.
In December, the Army charged Golsteyn with murder and ordered him to report back to duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as he awaits his Article 32 hearing in March.
Shortly after the charge was announced, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would review 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,” he tweeted on Dec. 16, 2018.
Starting nearly three weeks ago, Golsteyn began petitioning up his chain of command for each authority to review his case and dismiss the charges, a power that is retained at those levels.
As of this past week he was filing a petition to each higher level a week at a time, he said.
Shortly, his pleas will reach Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, then the secretary of the Army, secretary of defense, and finally, the commander in chief.
The USASOC spokesman, Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, has told media that the Article 32 is scheduled for March 14, until further notice.
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.