Sunday, November 23, 2014

Court-martial conviction for threatening journalist's wife

In an unusual case, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Michael Barbera has pleaded guilty to threatening the wife of a newspaper reporter who was covering another case in which murder charges against him had been dismissed without prejudice. Details of the case, including the terms of the pretrial agreement, can be found here.
Investigative reporter Carl Prine, who wrote the national award-winning report, tried a number of times to reach Barbera for comment. The threat charge against Barbera involves one of several calls made to Prine's home phone on Oct. 3, 2011. A male caller told Prine's wife, Deanna, that her husband needed to back away from pursuing a story about something that happened in Iraq in 2007.
“For your personal safety, I suggest you tell him he needs to stop working on this story,” she testified the caller told her.
Police traced the call to Barbera's cellphone number.
Col. Andrew Glass, a court-martial judge with the 4th Military Judicial Circuit that includes Lewis-McChord and Alaska, sentenced Barbera to a reprimand and a reduction in rank to staff sergeant — his rank at the time of the Iraqi killings — and ordered him to forfeit $1,000 in pay for 10 months.
SFC Barbera's sentence did not include confinement or a punitive discharge. He had professed his innocence on social material, according to the article. Concerning the earlier charges:
The Army in September announced that Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commanding general of Army I Corps and the Lewis-McChord base and the convening authority for Barbera's general court-martial, decided to dismiss the murder charges “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors retain the right to refile them.
The dismissal was necessary, officials said, because the unstable situation in Iraq with Islamic State militants makes it impossible for prosecutors and Barbera's defense team to get to As Sadah village to speak with the boys' relatives and others.

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