Military judge Navy Cmdr. Hayes C. Larsen has dropped all charges against Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Navy Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet over the manslaughter of Green Beret veteran and security contractor Rick Anthony Rodriguez this Wednesday, February 9, over “unlawful command influence” (UCI) by a senior marine lawyer. The manslaughter happened when they were stationed in Erbil, Iraq, in 2019 while Gilmet and two others were drinking at an off-base bar. The dismissed charges against Gilmet were “with prejudice,” meaning that those charges could no longer be refiled.

In a shocking turn of events, the current lawyers of Gilmet had argued that a senior marine officer serving under the Judge Advocate Division had influenced Gilmet’s former lawyers’ capacity due to threats about their careers as military lawyers.

Lt. Col. Christopher B. Shaw, Marine Corps Base Quantico Staff Judge Advocate, poses for a photograph in his office at Lejeune Hall on April 11, 2013 (Marine Corps). Source:
Lt. Col. Christopher B. Shaw, Marine Corps Base Quantico Staff Judge Advocate, poses for a photograph in his office at Lejeune Hall on April 11, 2013 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos/Released)

The Senior Marine lawyer in question, Colonel Christopher Shaw (former Deputy Director of Community Management and Oversight of the Judge Advocate Division at Headquarters Marine Corps), had threatened Captain Matthew Thomas (a junior military lawyer). The latter was one of Gilmet’s lawyers at that time during a meeting with other judge advocates at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

It was said that Thomas had been asking questions about sexual assault cases and about how attorneys were protected against outside influences when Colonel Christoper Shaw had postured in a threatening manner by squaring up his shoulder and chair while not breaking eye contact. He then proceeded to threaten Thomas, saying, “Captain Thomas, I know who you are and what cases you are on, and you are not protected.” He continued by saying, “…the FITREP process may shield you, but you are not protected. Our community is small, and there are promotion boards, and the lawyer on the promotion board will know you.”

As a result, this threat to Thomas’ lawyering career had affected his capacity to defend Gilmet during his manslaughter case, creating a conflict of interest between Eric Gilmet and Captain Thomas.

“A senior judge advocate who occupied a position of authority over the futures of young judge advocates made threatening comments to a young judge advocate about his career,” said Larsen. He continued to state that Shaw’s threats killed off any chance for Gilmet to receive a fair trial as his attorneys were now under his indirect influence.

It can be remembered that Gilmet, along with two other MARSOC personnel Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron, and Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher (collectively known as the MARSOC 3) had been drinking and enjoying their free time at a bar in Iraq during New Year’s Day in 2019.

Green Beret Veteran Rick Anthony Rodriguez in Uniform (Anchorage Daily News). Source:
Green Beret Veteran Rick Anthony Rodriguez (Anchorage Daily News).

In another case of drunken belligerence, the MARSOC 3 got into a heated argument with Green Beret Veteran and security contractor Rick Anthony Rodriguez. Allegedly acting in self-defense, Negron hit Rodriguez in the head and was knocked out unconscious. The veteran, who was now unconscious, was transported back to their base and shortly stopped breathing. Rodriguez was medically evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany, and died four days later due to complications.