The Army’s lead investigator in the Maj. Matthew Golsteyn murder case has pleaded guilty to charges related to wearing medals that he had not been awarded, said Fort Bragg spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Burns.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Delacruz was reduced in rank to specialist after pleading guilty at a special court-martial on Monday to making false official statements and wearing unauthorized insignia, decorations, badges, and ribbons, Burns told Task & Purpose.
Delacruz had been charged for falsely submitting a Purple Heart to his official military file and wearing the decoration along with the Pathfinder Badge and Air Assault Badge, none of which he had been officially awarded, Burns said. The former sergeant first class also certified his official military board file for promotion.
Burns declined to say whether Delacruz will be discharged or how his sentence could affect the prosecution’s case against Golsteyn, who is charged with murder after repeatedly admitting that he killed an unarmed suspected Taliban bomb-maker.
Delacruz was suspended from all investigative duties when the allegations against him first emerged late last year, said Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Christopher Grey.
“He is now in the final stages of being eliminated from the CID program,” said Grey, who also declined to comment on how Delacruz’s conviction could affect the government’s case against Golsteyn.
Task & Purpose was unable to reach Delacruz’s attorney on Tuesday.
Golsteyn’s civilian attorney Phillip Stackhouse has vowed to argue that Delacruz improperly “planted the seed” of incriminating information in the minds of prosecution witnesses if the case goes to trial.
“Why would that shock anyone that I would want to get out that he’s a dirty agent and he had already tainted these witnesses that are being called?” Stackhouse told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.
No trial date has been set.
The Golsteyn case has been rife with twists since February 2010, when Golsteyn allegedly killed an unarmed man in Afghanistan whom a tribal elder had identified as a Taliban bomb-maker who had killed two Marines. He first buried the man’s body, but then later he and two other soldiers dug up the corpse and burned it, according to the Washington Post.
Golsteyn first acknowledged while taking a polygraph for a CIA job that he had killed the man, but Army investigators initially did not find enough evidence to charge him. That changed after Golsteyn admitted during an October 2016 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier that he had killed the suspected bomb-maker.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December. Three days later, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would personally review the case, calling Golsteyn a “U.S. military hero.”
For his part, Golsteyn maintains he was acting within the rules of engagement when he killed the suspected bomb-maker. In February, he told Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe that he had legally ambushed the Afghan man, who was walking toward Taliban positions.
“He had a long walk,” Golsteyn said. “He had a long time to figure out where he was going in life.”