Two U.S. servicemen accused of murdering a Special Forces soldier are negotiating with prosecutors about possible plea deals, according to attorneys on the case and a source familiar with the investigation.
Two members of SEAL Team Six—Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews—along with two Marine Raiders—Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell—face charges that include murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of a Green Beret, Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.
A source familiar with the investigation said Matthews and Maxwell are working out deals with prosecutors.
DeDolph’s lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, said Monday that two suspects are discussing deals with prosecutors and confirmed that his client was not one of them.
Matthew’s attorney, Grover Baxley, declined to comment “on possible plea negotiations with the government.” Baxley said Matthews was “eager” to bring closure to Melgar’s family.
“He also looks forward to explaining what actually happened that night in Mali, clarifying some of the inaccurate information previously reported by news media,” Baxley said.
Rodriguez’s attorney declined to comment for this story. Attempts to reach Maxwell’s lawyer were unsuccessful. Prosecutors on the case also declined to comment, according to Beth Baker, a Navy spokeswoman.
It is unclear if the deals are done. Stackhouse said he hasn’t received any paperwork to indicate they were, but he did receive from prosecutors additional evidence, which he hadn’t had a chance to review.
He declined to speak about the case in detail.
“I don’t think anybody can dispute it being a sad situation all the way around,” Stackhouse said.
Melgar, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, was nearing the end of his deployment when he was killed in the West African nation of Mali in June 2017, as first reported by The New York Times. He was part of a six-man intelligence operation in Mali supporting counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
There was an ongoing disagreement between the Green Beret and DeDolph over the SEALs’ professionalism, a source familiar with the episode told The Daily Beast last year. DeDolph and Matthews, both members of SEAL Team Six, were allegedly soliciting prostitutes and taking them back to the safe house in Bamako, Mali’s capital city.
As The Daily Beast reported in 2017, Melgar also found the SEALs skimming cash from a fund to recruit informants about local Islamist activity. Melgar was upset with these lapses, according to a source familiar with the investigation’s findings. Melgar reported at least some of the violations to his chain of command, drawing the ire of the SEALs and two Marine Raiders, who were also on the team assigned to assist with counterterrorism.Then on June 4, 2017, Melgar was invited to an embassy party, and the rest of the team was not. While Melgar was gone, the two SEALs and two Marine Raiders plotted to haze Melgar for the slight, according to the source familiar with the investigation’s findings.
“The alleged conspirators ‘entered the bedroom of SSG Melgar by breaking through his locked door,’ restrained him with duct tape, and ‘strangled SSG Melgar by placing him in a chokehold.’”
DeDolph realized Melgar wasn’t breathing, according to a preliminary investigation report first reported by NBC News. The SEALs tried to resuscitate Melgar with CPR and opened a hole in his throat. They then took Melgar, along with another Fort Bragg-based Green Beret, to a French medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. At the clinic, DeDolph admitted to an embassy official he choked Melgar, according to NBC News and subsequent reports.
After the SEALs returned to the safehouse, they engaged in a cover-up, according to several witnesses—including cleaning up evidence and coaching witnesses. A source told The Daily Beast last year that the SEALs filed at least one operational report about the incident and possibly two. At least one of the reports included an account that Melgar was drunk. But Melgar did not drink alcohol, and a toxicology report showed no alcohol in his system.
The charges against DeDolph, Matthews, Madera-Rodriguez, and Maxwell were brought in November. A preliminary hearing in military court is scheduled for December and then for this week, but was pushed back again last week.
A new date has not been set.