Ft. Bragg, N.C. - An Army paratrooper was found guilty today of involuntary manslaughter for choking to death a fellow soldier during an hour-long struggle to bring the unruly soldier back to base after a night of heavy drinking.A military jury is expected to impose a sentence tonight.
After a night of heavy drinking, Sgt. Justin A. Boyle used a martial-arts choke hold to subdue an intoxicated member of his unit, who died of brain damage. Boyle faces as many as 10 years in prison.
Sgt. Justin A. Boyle, 28, who joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks and deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan, faces as many as 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.Private First Class Luke Brown, 27, died after he led fellow soldiers in his intelligence unit on a wild chase through dense woods after a night of drinking at the Ugly Stick Saloon in nearby Fayetteville.
Boyle was convicted of leading six soldiers on a mission to subdue Brown, who was choked, handcuffed and hauled to a waiting car.Prosecutors said Brown died of brain damage after Boyle used a martial arts maneuver, called a rear naked choke hold, to cut the blood flow to his brain and knock him unconscious.Brown, a powerfully-built soldier who choked and punched soldiers who tried to control him, was dead by the time the soldiers returned him to their barracks at Ft. Bragg.Boyle, wearing a dress uniform and spit-shined paratrooper boots today, choked back tears as he told the jurors that he was only trying to keep Brown safe.
"The only thing on my mind was to get that kid back here safely," Boyle said.
The case has tested the limits of the warrior ethos of leaving no man behind, whether in combat or after a drunken night on the town.Boyle's lawyers said he was following orders, delivered at regular Friday safety briefings, to "do whatever it takes" to bring fellow soldiers back to base. Soldiers were ordered to "choke someone out if you have to" to get him back home, according to testimony.
The message was: "Knock 'em out, choke 'em out, bring 'em back. We'll deal with it in the unit," an 82nd Airborne Division warrant officer testified.
Because of the strict demands of the buddy system, defense lawyers said, Boyle and the other paratroopers would have faced punishment if they had left Brown alone in the woods, drunk and possibly suicidal.
"They were in an impossible position," said Boyle's lawyer, Anita Gorecki.