Brian Mast: Time to Drop Charges Against Marines Charges With Killing in Kurdistan

This week, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., called on the leader of U.S. Military Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) to drop manslaughter charges against U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) special forces operators who were forced to defend themselves “in a clear-cut case of self-defense” against an assault from a drunken aggressor while on deployment.

In his letter to Major General James F. Glynn, Mast expressed concern that the charges against Marine Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Draher, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron and Navy Hospitalman Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet are politically motivated. Moreover, the letter expresses concern that “MARSOC is damaging its capability and credibility by persisting in efforts to unnecessarily prosecute these men.”

“Given the actions of Colonel Shaw and evidence demonstrating the Marines acted in self-defense, it appears that continued prosecution of Draher and Negron is not about justice,” Mast said. “I am confident that Major General Glynn will see this for exactly what it is – a concerted effort by his predecessor to demonstrate his commitment to good order and discipline in the aftermath of several high-profile episodes regarding misconduct in the ranks. Gunnery Sergeants Draher and Negron are unfortunately being used as scapegoats in that effort.”

Mast also wrote that he had personally reviewed video evidence that proved that the U.S. service members do not deserve to face the threat of 22 years in the brig. Further, Mast noted that he is troubled by what appears to be ongoing unlawful command influence (UCI) within the USMC. In February of 2022, the case against Chief Petty Officer Gilmet was dismissed with prejudice after a senior Marine attorney, Colonel Christopher Shaw, threatened the military attorney representing Gilmet at the time.

Three MARSOC Raiders–Draher,Negron and Gilmet–were charged with manslaughter nearly ten months after an attack prompted a single act of self-defense.

In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2019, in a civilian pub near the U.S. consulate in Irbil, Kurdistan, and later in the on-street parking area, a visibly intoxicated U.S. contractor was repeatedly aggressive towards Gilmet. The contractor was removed from the bar by Kurdish bouncers, but remained outside, seemingly seeking to provoke a violent confrontation.

Near the on-street parking area by the pub, Draher attempted to de-escalate the situation, leading the contractor to strike Draher with a flurry of punches. Negron then stepped in to defend Draher, throwing a single punch that rendered the aggressor unconscious.

Gilmet provided immediate and ongoing medical care to the unconscious man. The trio returned him to the base where they all lived, and Gilmet posted watch overnight, out of concern about his heavily intoxicated state. That day, Draher was transparent and honest in alerting his chain of command of the incident.

Many hours later, the contractor choked on his own vomit and stopped breathing. Tragically, he died days later at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

When Draher notified his chain of command, MARSOC investigated and apparently agreed that it was a clear case of self-defense. Then, in September of 2019, the three Raiders were suddenly charged with involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, obstructing justice, dereliction of duty and violations of orders.

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