After more than two years of legal limbo, the Army plans to charge Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn with murder over the alleged shooting of a suspected Taliban bomb-maker, who Golsteyn believed had killed two Marines, his attorney Philip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
“I’ve just heard through some colleagues that they are firing up to charge Matt in a court-martial now,” Stackhouse said Friday. “We’re hearing that they are going to charge him in the near future.”
Golsteyn admitted during a polygraph test for a CIA interview that he had killed an unarmed Afghan man, whom a local tribal leader told him had built a bomb that killed two Marines, according to The Washington Post. The tribal leader told Golsteyn he was worried the alleged bomb maker would kill him in retaliation for being an informant if he were to be released, so Golsteyn took the man off base and shot him.
Golsteyn first buried the man but he and two soldiers subsequently unearthed the remains and burned them, The Post reported.
Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn holding his newborn son.Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse.
Stackhouse said the Army has not directly informed him as of yet that the service plans to prosecute Golsteyn. The San Diego-based civilian attorney did not specify exactly how he learned of the Army’s intentions.
Since a board of inquiry recommended in June 2015 that he receive a general discharge, Golsteyn has been on excess leave while awaiting a decision from the Army Review Board Agency about whether he will be separated or medically retired, per a separate medical board’s recommendation, Stackhouse explained.
Stackhouse said he did not know why the Army would decide to charge Golsteyn now because there is no new information in the case.
It is possible that the Army is retaliating against Golsteyn, who plans to file a federal lawsuit to force the service to decide whether to retire or separate him, the attorney added.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command initially did not find enough evidence to charge Golsteyn for the Feb. 28, 2010 incident, but the Army later re-opened its investigation after Golsteyn talked about killing the Afghan man during an interview on Fox News in October 2016, Stackhouse said.
“In that interview with Bret Baier, there wasn’t anything discussed that the Army didn’t already have in their possession,” Stackhouse said. “I think if you go back and watch that interview, Matt was somewhat critical of the current leadership that was prosecuting the war. But as far as what’s contained in that interview, there’s nothing that the prosecutors didn’t have and present at the board of inquiry.”
In the segment, Baer said Golsteyn was ordered to release the Afghan man “because of strict rules of engagement.”
When Baer asked Golsteyn if he had killed the suspected bomb maker, Golsteyn replied: “Yes.”
Golsteyn said the Taliban retaliated whenever detainees were released.
“It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with the coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed,” Golsteyn said.
He also said that he and his peers did not feel their superiors were providing U.S. troops in Afghanistan with the support they needed.
“My part of the bargain is that I act in good faith,” Golsteyn said. “I’m upholding the trust invested in me to take into account my mission, the rules — in the context I’m trying to apply them in — and do that to the best of my ability.
“Their part of the bargain is that: You don’t come in after the fact — with different information, knowing the outcome – and say, ‘Eh, we didn’t like it.’”
A spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command could not immediately respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose.
Golsteyn issued a statement to Task & Purpose on Friday through his attorney: “The investigation into my actions began over seven years ago when the Army saw I intended to resign for an opportunity to work for a government agency. After four years of investigation, it resulted in the Army seeking to administratively separate me. For over two years now the decision to separate me or retire me has been pending in Washington, D.C. During those years, the Army allowed me to move on, begin a new career, and start a new family.
“If it’s true they now want to prosecute me for allegations that have already been resolved — this vindictive abuse of power must know no limit. My hope is that Army leadership will stop this vindictive plan and effect the retirement that is pending.”
The latest news about Golsteyn comes as Navy SEAL Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher stands accused of killing an unarmed ISIS fighter with a knife and other offenses. Separately, Navy SEALs Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews along with two unnamed Marine Corps Special Operations Command Raiders have been charged with felony murder and other offenses for allegedly strangling Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Mali.
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