Marine Raider Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2017 death of a Green Beret in Mali.
He was also found guilty of hazing, making false official statements, and conspiracy charges ― but was found not guilty of felony murder, his most serious charge along with burglary. Though the jury did find him guilty of the lesser offense of “housebreaking.”
Madera-Rodriguez was sentenced to six months of confinement, a reduction in rank to private, and an additional 90 days of hard labor for his involvement in the death of Melgar. Unlike the other servicemembers involved in Melgar’s death, he will not receive a punitive discharge, i.e. either a bad conduct or a dishonorable discharge. Madera-Rodriguez will not forfeit any pay.
The “hard labor” will be determined by Madera-Rodriguez’s command but could consist of just picking up trash, digging ditches, and mowing grass.
Madera-Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Colby Vokey, said to the Marine Corps Times that, “it was [an] appropriate and just sentence given GySgt Madera’s lesser role in the hazing and the whole incident.”
“It was also appropriate and just given his truly remarkable prior service and bravery in the line of duty,” Vokey said.
“GySgt Madera is grateful for the members’ attentiveness and attention to detail throughout the trial,” he added.
Madera-Rodriguez was the only one of the four to plead not guilty. The other three entered guilty pleas and received jail terms; they were expected to be called as witnesses for the prosecution. If Madera-Rodriguez had been convicted of the most serious crimes, he could have been sentenced to up to 27.5 years in prison.
The Role of Madera-Rodriguez in Melgar’s Death
On June 4, 2017, Melgar was in his bedroom in the off-site housing he shared with other special operators in Bamako, Mali, when the four servicemembers and a local man broke through his door with a sledgehammer.
Reportedly, Melgar had ditched the four en route to a party at the French Embassy in Bamako. Feeling slighted, the four had gone to a bar called the Appaloosa, before heading to the Marine house where the embassy guards live to pick up a sledgehammer and duct tape. They then went to the house where the SEALs and Melgar were living.
Marine prosecutor Major Jason Samuel stated that each of the four had specific roles in the attack on Melgar. Madera-Rodriguez was supposed to smash open Melgar’s bedroom door with a sledgehammer and then turn on some loud music to drown out the noise. Marine SSG Kevin Maxwell Jr., was to pull back the mosquito netting around Melgar’s bed. Navy SEAL Anthony DeDolph, a former MMA fighter, was going to render Melgar unconscious by putting him in a chokehold while Navy SEAL Adam Matthews would duct tape Melgar to immobilize him.
Their plan was to then have a local Malian soldier strip naked wearing a dog collar and chain and stand next to the naked and unconscious Melgar. They would then take compromising photos and videos of Melgar.
“Their plan was to haze him that night, to humiliate him,” Samuel said Friday at the start of the murder trial. “But they killed him.”
Once Madera-Rodriguez sledgehammered Melgar’s door between 5:35 and 5:45 a.m., Melgar awoke and fought back. DeDolph’s chokehold didn’t render him unconscious but killed him.
The four then attempted to resuscitate Melgar, even trying a field-expedient tracheotomy. When they realized it wasn’t working, they took him to a nearby medical clinic where he was pronounced dead. The SEALs then told the Marines that they would handle the investigation and not mention their involvement.
They concocted a story that DeDolph had been practicing hand-to-hand combat drills with Melgar when the latter stopped breathing. According to Army investigators, they later added that Melgar had been drinking at the party and that might have contributed to his death. But those who knew Melgar said he was a non-drinker. An autopsy and blood screening showed no alcohol in his system.
According to the investigation, a week after Melgar’s death, Madera-Rodriguez and Maxwell accompanied Army investigators to the crime scene as security. Madera-Rodriguez even tried walking through the fake story of a wrestling match gone wrong between DeDolph and Melgar.
However, the investigators found duct tape under Melgar’s bed with his blood on it. They then talked with Jennifer Brown, a friend of Madera-Rodriguez, who had overheard the four men’s plan.