Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Tony DeDolph will plead guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.
Navy SEAL Chief Tony DeDolph, Navy SEAL Chief Matthews, and two Marine Raiders, Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell were charged in November 2018 with felony murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar. Melgar was a Special Forces Green Beret soldier who was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Chief DeDolph will plead guilty on January 14, 2021, to involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and hazing. The prosecution is willing to dismiss felony murder and burglary in exchange for the guilty plea. DeDolph also agreed to a provision that bars him from profiting from the case in any way, including writing books or earning a living based on his experience while assigned to SEAL Team 6.
“This agreement will end the contested charges, allowing [Special Operations Chief] DeDolph to accept responsibility for those offenses he can and mitigate most of the concerns over classified material present in the case,” Phil Stackhouse, DeDolph’s civilian attorney, said in a statement.
“We believe what is intended by a person’s actions is eminently important, and the agreement recognizes that SOC DeDolph never intended to injure Logan Melgar, but also recognizes the fact that Melgar died as a result of actions that went tragically wrong on June 4, 2017.”
Stackhouse said that while Melgar’s “death was not intentional,” it doesn’t diminish the grief felt by his friends and family and that the guilty plea is an attempt to help Melgar’s family “find closure and peace.”
The hearing is scheduled for January 14, 2021, in Norfolk, VA. Chief DeDolph will be required to convince a military judge of his guilt. After the hearing, DeDolph will then be sentenced by a jury.
DeDolph is the third of four defendants to plead guilty in the case. Only Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez is still awaiting trial.
DeDolph and Melgar were part of the intelligence operation in Mali supporting counterterrorism efforts in 2017.
Just a few days after Melgar was strangled, the Navy sent DeDolph back to his base in Virginia Beach under suspicion of murder. Despite the investigation, the Navy promoted DeDolph to chief petty officer in August 2017 despite his admission of choking the Green Beret to death.
“It is another failure of leadership,” then-Brigadier General Bolduc had said. “I mean senior leadership. It’s unfortunate. He should have never been promoted. The investigation was started right away. They whisked them out of there as fast as they could.”
SEAL Chief Adam C. Matthews testified in August 2019 saying that he felt it was his duty to haze Melgar in order to teach him a lesson after Melgar allegedly “ditched” the team in Mali’s capital city of Bamako.
The two Navy SEALs and the two MARSOC Raiders spent that night plotting how to choke Melgar into unconsciousness, pull his pants down, videotape the incident, and then show it to him later to embarrass him.
The four men got permission from Sergeant First Class James Morris, Melgar’s supervisor, broke down Melgar’s door, and attacked him.
During the subsequent fight, Melgar became unresponsive. Matthews and DeDolph tried to resuscitate Melgar with CPR and opened a hole in his throat. The SEALs with Morris then rushed Melgar to a French medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. According to NBC News and subsequent reports, at the clinic, DeDolph admitted to an embassy official that he had choked Melgar.
A medical examiner’s report concluded that Melgar’s cause of death was asphyxiation.
Maxwell and Matthews pleaded guilty in exchange for plea deals. Matthews pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges and attempts to cover up the incident. Chief Matthews was sentenced in May 2019 to one year in military prison. Staff Sgt. Maxwell was sentenced to four years of confinement after pleading guilty to Melgar’s death in June of 2019.
Gunnery Sgt Madera-Rodriguez is expected to face a court-martial in February. He has no plans to plead guilty, said his civilian attorney Colby Vokey.