Military prosecutors in Virginia said Monday that they want to add allegations of sexual misconduct to their murder case against a U.S. Marine and a Navy SEAL who are among those blamed for the 2017 hazing death of a U.S. Green Beret in Africa.
Navy prosecutor Benjamin Garcia made the request at a preliminary hearing at a military court in Norfolk.
The lieutenant commander said that Marine Mario Madera-Rodriguez and SEAL Tony DeDolph were among four servicemen who planned to make “sexual contact” against Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar as he was hazed on video in his bedroom.
The overall effort to embarrass Melgar ultimately led to his death, according to charging documents. Melgar was bound with duct tape and placed in choke holds to temporarily knock him unconscious before he stopped breathing, the charging documents said.
The sexual misconduct allegation added a new wrinkle to a case that has pulled back the curtain on misconduct among some of America's most elite service members.
It also follows a letter that was recently written by the top Navy SEAL to commanders that said some in the ranks “have failed to maintain good order and discipline” and that the problem “must be addressed immediately,” according to news outlets.
The July 25 letter didn't offer specifics. But it comes after a string of high profile incidents involving Navy SEALs.
Among them is Melgar's 2017 death in Africa, where U.S. special forces have supported and trained local troops in their fight against extremists.
Military prosecutors have charged four men — two SEALs and two Marines — in Melgar's death in Bamako, Mali.
Navy SEAL Adam Matthews and Marine Kevin Maxwell Jr. have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to military prison.
DeDolph, 40, and Madera-Rodriguez, 34, still face charges of murder and the possibility of a life sentence if found guilty.
Capt. Warren Record, the preliminary hearing officer for Monday’s proceedings, will make a recommendation in coming days over whether the case should proceed to a court-martial hearing.
An admiral will receive the recommendation and then ultimately decide where the case goes. Record said he will not recommend to the admiral that the sexual charges be added to the case, citing insufficient evidence.
Monday's hearing offered yet another detailed recitation of Melgar's death.
Matthews and Maxwell, who are now serving time in military prisons, testified via telephone that Melgar's death was the result of a botched attempt to haze him over perceived slights against other service members.
Maxwell said the plot to haze Melgar started off as a hypothetical joke that was cooked up as Marines and SEALs socialized at a bar and then at a dance club.
"It would be hilarious and embarrassing," Maxwell said of their mindset before the incident.
He said the plan was to choke the blood flow to Melgar's brain so that he would fall into unconsciousness, pull his pants down and videotape the incident, Maxwell said. They would then show it to him later.
Matthews said they had brought along a Malian guard who had removed his shirt and worn a leash as part of the prank.
But within minutes, the men said, Melgar was no longer breathing.