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The Coast Guard accused a seaman of murdering a shipmate. New evidence tells a different story
A Coast Guard seaman accused of murder was released from a San Diego brig Monday as the admiral overseeing his prosecution ordered a new hearing in the case.
Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Douglas Munro, a high endurance cutter based in Kodiak, Alaska.
Tucker is charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, making false official statements, obstruction of justice and failure to obey orders. He has not entered a plea and won't do so unless his case is referred to a court-martial.
Initially the Coast Guard accused Tucker of causing blunt force trauma to Kelch the night of Jan. 26 and dragging him into the frigid water where he drowned. His body was found Jan. 27.
However evidence presented by Tucker's defense at a preliminary Article 32 hearing Oct. 16 cast the events of that night in a different light.
Snapchat videos posted by a witness who was there that night — Coast Guard Seaman Trevin Hunter — showed Tucker trying to keep Kelch out of the water, not placing him there, said Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson, Tucker's attorney at the hearing.
The videos were not shown in court.
According to testimony at the October hearing, Kelch often became belligerent and difficult to deal with when he drank. Henderson said on the night Kelch died, Tucker fought with him when Kelch tried to "go for a swim" in waters off Amaknak Island.
Henderson said that night the three men had downed a bottle of R&R Reserve Whiskey. Tucker fought to keep Kelch out of the water for about half an hour, according to Henderson, before Tucker collapsed, exhausted and intoxicated.
Tucker was found unconscious 200 yards down the beach by first responders the next day.
Article 32 hearings in the military system serve a role similar to a civilian grand jury. A hearing officer hears testimony and weighs evidence before making recommendations on how to proceed to a convening authority — in this case, Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Coast Guard's Pacific area commander.
Testimony by the Alaska medical examiner who performed Kelch's autopsy also contradicted the government's narrative. Dr. Cristin Rolf testified over the phone that none of Kelch's head injuries were fatal and that he died by drowning.
That was enough for Fagan to send Tucker's case back to prosecutors. A new Article 32 hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 in Alameda, California, where Tucker is now stationed.
The new charges eliminate language alleging Tucker caused "blunt force trauma" to Kelch and instead allege he struck the victim "unlawfully."
Prosecutors now allege that Tucker left Kelch in the water rather than placing him there.
A maiming charge connected with the assault allegation was dropped.
On Monday, Rear Adm. Melvin W. Bouboulis ordered Tucker released from the Navy Consolidated Brig Miramar, where he has been held since his August arrest. In an email Monday, a Coast Guard spokesman said Tucker would work in logistics at Coast Guard Base Alameda while awaiting future court dates.
©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune - Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The FBI is treating the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a terrorist attack, several media outlets reported on Sunday.
"We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," USA Today quoted FBI Agent Rachel Rojas as saying at a news conference.
WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."
"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.
"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.
The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.
Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.
The Pentagon’s troop deployment denials means nothing when the White House screams ‘fake news’ all the time
The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.
We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."
"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"