A hearing scheduled for next week in a murder charge against a Green Beret major has been cancelled and it appears the major could be headed to a court-martial.
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command announced Friday that the March 14 Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing, had been cancelled and the USASOC commanding general would now consider the evidence and “other written matters concerning the charge.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette is the commanding general of USASOC and acts as the convening authority in this case due to that position.
A charge of felony murder was preferred against Maj. Mathew Golsteyn in December, more than eight years after the alleged incident in which investigators claim he killed an alleged Taliban bomb maker after the man had been released by Afghan authorities.
Trump said he’ll review the case against an Army Green Beret charged with murder. This is what could happen.
The president's tweet could be seen as influencing the case.
Golsteyn maintains he acted under the laws of armed conflict in the incident and told Military Times that he was only later charged because initial investigators conflated statements he made to the CIA in a job interview in 2011 to build the case against him.
In mid-February Military Times learned that the lead investigator in Golsteyn’s case faces charges related to stolen valor. Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Delacruz, an Army Criminal Investigation Command special agent, has been 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.
Prosecutors have declined to comment on how those separate charges could affect the trustworthiness of Delacruz’ investigation and potential role as a witness against Golsteyn.
Other military attorneys interviewed by Military Times have said that the charges are detrimental to the case and would be a key point of attacking the credibility of Delacruz as a witness and the integrity of the investigation.
Shortly after he was charged, Golsteyn’s case garnered the attention of the commander in chief.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 16, 2018:
“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.”
Since he was charged in December, Golsteyn has been required to return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina from his home of three years in northern Virginia and report to his superior twice daily. He began a petitioning process in late January asking that his case be reviewed for dismissal by successive echelons up the chain of command.
On Feb. 13, he requested to waive his Article 32 hearing and have his charges reviewed for potential court-martial.
Golsteyn’s civilian attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, clarified some of the nuance of the process in an email to Military Times.
“We have asked for an audience with Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette … to discuss the case with him openly so that he has a clearer picture of what has happened in his case, the investigation, and why this charge is without merit and should be dismissed,” he wrote.
“That request is pending. We are optimistic the General will take the meeting – because why would he possibly not want to know the full background before making a charging decision?” Stackhouse wrote.
USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer told Military Times that the command “cannot comment further at this time on this ongoing legal matter.”
Golsteyn was serving as a Special Forces captain in Afghanistan in 2010 during some of the most intense fighting of the war.
He led his Operational Detachment Alpha team members and Marines and other troops in sections including Marjah, one of the major battles of the war. The unit lost multiple members to IEDs and frequently rooted out bombmakers and their materials.
One such alleged bombmaker was captured and detained but was later released. A tribal elder who had helped identify the bombmaker told Golsteyn that he feared for his life because the bombmaker had learned his identity.
He told Military Times that he set up an ambush at a bombmaking site that the man had been connected to and that is how he was killed.
Golsteyn, and perhaps others, helped dispose of the body either by burning it or burying it or both, according to reports.
The major declined to provide further details about the incident to Military Times.
During 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 Military Times that during the interview, the agents asked if he had 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, which is an administrative review by senior officers of conduct that is in question.
That board recommended a general discharge and found no convincing evidence that he had violated the rules of engagement during his deployment.
In a statement sent to Army Times on Friday, Golsteyn said he hopes these findings will be taken into consideration as Beaudette decides whether or not to refer the charges to court-martial, adding that if allegations against him are not dismissed “the momentum and legitimacy of any effort to buttress ethical decision-making in the special operations community will evaporate.”
During the same deployment, he was awarded the Silver Star medal for separate actions.
While the investigation and allegations emerged, the Silver Star was being considered for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor given by the Army.
Though cleared by the board, the officials found that he had committed conduct unbecoming an officer.
His Distinguished Service Cross was denied, and 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. He now awaits his fate at Fort Bragg.