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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

Tecumseh soldier to be tried in killing of Afghan


FORT BRAGG, N.C. A Special Forces soldier from Tecumseh, Mich., will be court-martialed early next year on charges that he killed an Afghan civilian and cut off his ear near a remote village, the Army said yesterday.

Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, 38, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of murder and desecration of a body.

Prosecutors say Sergeant Newell shot an unidentified man his team encountered during a convoy March 5 near the village of Hyderabad in southern Afghanistan s Helmand province.

Officials at Fort Bragg held a hearing last month to determine whether there was enough evidence to formally charge Sergeant Newell.

His attorney, Todd Conormon, argued that evidence against Sergeant Newell was weak and charges should be dismissed. He said Sergeant Newell was being treated like a terrorist and was a victim of a conspiracy among some soldiers on his team to get rid of him.

Prosecutors said Sergeant Newell showed the ear to several soldiers.

One testified that he saw Sergeant Newell shoot the man, whose body hasn t been found. Sergeant Newell then ran to his vehicle holding the bloody ear and grinning, the soldier said.

An investigator said he found the ear on a shelf in Sergeant Newell s room at Forward Operating Base Robinson in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said blood from the dead Afghan was found on Sergeant Newell s knife, boots, and uniform and the man s scarf was found in Sergeant Newell s room.

A message seeking comment was left yesterday with Mr. Conormon. If convicted, Sergeant Newell could face up to life in prison or the death penalty, but prosecutors haven t said what punishment they will seek.

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