A military jury has found Marine Gunnery Sgts Daniel Draher and Joshua Negron of the ‘MARSOC 3’ not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty, in connection with the death of a former Green Beret who was working as a contractor in Iraq, said Maj. Matthew Finnerty, a spokesman for Marine Forces Special Operations Command.

Draher and Negron were found guilty of violating  General Order No. 1, which prohibits troops from drinking alcohol in certain countries, Draher’s attorney Phillip Stackhouse said.

After deliberating on a sentence, jurors decided on Thursday that Draher and Negron should not be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.

For the moment, the two Marine Raiders’ felony conviction for violating General Order No. 1 stands, Stackhouse said.

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“We will request that the commanding general set aside the conviction, especially since there was no punishment, and if that doesn’t happen, then, yes, an appeal will happen,” Stackhouse said.

Draher, Negron, and Navy Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet were assigned to the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion when they got into a physical altercation with Rick Anthony Rodriguez outside of a bar in Erbil, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2019. Negron punched Rodriguez, who fell to the ground.

After the fight, the three men took Rodriguez back to his on-base quarters, where a co-worker monitored him until Rodriguez began having difficulties breathing several hours later. Gilmet began treating Rodriguez, Stackhouse previously told Task & Purpose, and he was taken to an on-base medical center and eventually medically evacuated to Germany, where he died on Jan. 4, 2019.

In February 2022, a military judge dismissed all charges against Gilmet after finding that a deputy director of the Marine Corps’ Judge Advocate Division had illegally interfered in the case by threatening one of Gilmet’s military attorneys. But in August 2022, an appeals court reinstated those charges. Gilmet’s appeal is pending, and he was granted immunity to testify at Negron and Draher’s trial.

On Thursday, Gilmet’s attorney Colby Vokey called for the charges against his client to be dismissed once and for all in light of the jury’s decision in Negron and Draher’s trial.

“The acquittal of Gunnery Sergeants Draher and Negron of all the serious charges suggests what Chief Gilmet knew all along – these charges were baseless and not supported by the evidence,” Vokey told Task & Purpose. “The persecution of these three stellar servicemembers has been marked by a lack of evidence, unlawful command influence, and faulty legal analysis.”  

“Given the result in the current case, the government should dismiss the case against Chief Gilmet now,” Vokey continued. “His case is still pending appellate review by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. But it’s time to stop this madness and end it once and for all.  Chief Gilmet’s case must be dismissed.”

United American Patriots, an advocacy group that provides legal representation and other assistance to service members whom it believes have been unjustly charged, has been among the MARSOC 3’s most vocal supporters over the years.

On Wednesday, the group’s CEO David “Bull” Gurfein made a video saying that Negron and Draher’s attorneys will contest the lone conviction of violating General Order No. 1.

“If they’re found guilty at a general court-martial of this violation – not even a crime – then, all of a sudden it’s going to come with a felony offense, a felony conviction,” Gurfein said. “But there is definitely room for celebration. We all knew that there was not evidence to support any of these allegations. So, this is a big win and it’s all because of all the support that people have been providing to and being able to provide the financing to get really great civilian attorneys in here to battle these cases on behalf of these warriors.”

After the jury had decided not to punish the two Marine Raiders, Stackhouse and Negron’s attorney Joseph Low IV issued a joint statement thanking Marine Maj. Gen. Matthew G. Trollinger, head of MARSOC, as well as the military judge who oversaw Draher and Negron’s trial and the MARSOC 3’s various supporters.

“I think both defense teams share this sentiment: we want to thank the MARSOC Commanding General for ensuring a fair process,” the statement says. “Fair doesn’t mean easy. Fair means that he funded the experts we needed, funded the expenses for traveling the witnesses we needed, and ensured that Gunnery Sergeants Draher and Negron had a real jury of their peers – including officers and senior staff noncommissioned officers who were Raiders and/or had real-world experience from which to judge the evidence.  That does not always happen, so he ensured a fair process.  

“We also had a judge who allowed the lawyers to try their cases like they needed to be tried,” the statement continues. “That, too, does not always happen.  When the process is fair, you get fair results.  For that, we are grateful.  Additionally, we appreciate the support from Raiders – past and present, Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and civilians. The support lifted spirits, gave us all energy, and kept us all going over the last four years.”

UPDATE: 2/2/2023; this story was updated with a statement from Phillip Stackhouse and Joseph Low IV.

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