MANHATTAN (CN) – A former Marine lied to military investigators six years ago when he did not immediately confess to having shot a medic and friend in his housing unit, a jury ruled Wednesday.
The shooting occurred in January 2008 when then-Marine Cpl. Wilfredo Santiago and medical specialist Michael Carpeso were in their housing unit at Camp Echo in Iraq. Santiago had a reputation in his unit for playing with his weapon, according to court papers.
Neither of the parties disputes that Santiago shot Carpeso, who lost an eye in the incident.
Several days passed, however, before Santiago told investigators that he had fired his M9 pistol. At first, the corporal told military investigators that he merely heard the gunfire.
Santiago never faced court-martial and ended his service with an honorable discharge.
By indicting him last year, federal prosecutors made an “unprecedented” decision to criminally charge a former armed service member for wartime conduct, a judge said in August.
Outspoken with her view that military investigators bungled aspects of the case against Santiago, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon later tossed a negligent-assault charge because she found that it violated the former marine’s due-process rights.
The one-day trial focused on the narrower question of whether Santiago lied to officers and agents probing the incident. His lawyers contend that Santiago told the partial truth, but chose not to incriminate himself, during informal questioning.
In his first Jan. 27, 2008, interview, Santiago told Lt. David Wang: “As I was moving to my rack [bed], I heard a gunshot.”
Wang acknowledged at trial that he could not recall whether he swore in Santiago.
The jury found Santiago not guilty on that count Wednesday, but convicted him for sticking to that story when Navy Criminal Instigative Service agents confronted him roughly a week later.
Santiago confessed only after the agents confronted him with what they had learned.
Attorneys for both parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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