In an unexpected development to the war crimes case of Major Matthew Golsteyn, a Special Forces officer accused of murdering a Taliban prisoner, the lead investigator has been accused of stolen valor.
In late January, Sergeant First Class Mark A. Delacruz was charged with fabricating his promotion files and other administrative records to indicate that he had earned the Purple Heart Medal, which is awarded to servicemen wounded in combat; the Combat Action Badge; the Air Assault Badge; and the Pathfinder Badge. Sergeant Delacruz is a special agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command, which is responsible for investigating serious violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and felony crimes in the Army. Since the allegations came forward in late 2018, Sergeant Delacruz has been suspended from his position.
Major Golsteyn and his attorneys have used the indictment of Sergeant Delacruz to bypass the Article 32 hearing, the process in which the prosecution and defense present their cases to a judge, who then determines if the evidence merits a court-martial. The defense has now pressed the government to either drop the case or proceed to a court-martial.
As the lead investigator, Sergeant Delacruz had been responsible for interviewing key witnesses that led to Major Golsteyn being charged with murder. He was supposed to be one of the primary witnesses for the prosecution.
In 2010, Major Golsteyn killed a Taliban prisoner because he was concerned that the man would evade justice in the corrupt Afghan system and jeopardize the security of local Afghan elders who were cooperating with coalition forces and the Afghan government. He admitted to the murder during a Fox News interview in 2016. During the interview, Major Golsteyn described the brutal fate at the hands of the Taliban awaiting any Afghan suspected of assisting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) or coalition troops. “It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with the coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed,” he said.
The incident first became known to Army investigators when the CIA tipped them off in 2011. Major Golsteyn was interviewing for a job with the Agency and had admitted to the murder during the standard polygraph test during the selection and assessment process. At the time, the Army investigators didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute Major Golsteyn, who was instead issued a letter of reprimand—essentially ending his career—and separated from service.
Major Golsteyn was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group. For his actions during the fierce fighting at the Battle of Marjah in 2010, he received the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor. The award was subsequently revoked because of the war crimes allegations.