A military jury has sentenced Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Tony DeDolph, a member of the elite SEAL Team Six, to 10 years in military prison for his role in killing Special Forces Green Beret SSG Logan Melgar in Mali in 2017.
In addition to the prison sentence, DeDolph was also hit with a reduction of rank to E-1, forfeiture of his pay and allowances, and will be dishonorably discharged.
On January 14, 2021, DeDolph pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and hazing. His initial charges had included felony murder.
He and Melgar had lived in the same house in Bamako, Mali. They were part of a special operations detachment operating in Africa in support of counterterrorism efforts.
DeDolph along with Navy SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews, and Marine Raiders Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, and Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez had planned to haze Melgar after a perceived slight.
DeDolph had told the judge during his plea hearing that, “The Marines [had] felt [that] Melgar had abandoned them in an unsafe city that’s been the target of terrorist activity.”
On June 4, 2017, the four men, along with two Malian guards, broke into Melgar’s room with a sledgehammer, and DeDolph applied a rear-naked choke to force Melgar into unconsciousness.
“I effectively applied the chokehold as I have done numerous times in training, in combatives, and has been done to me,” DeDolph told the military judge on January 14.
According to Phil Stackhouse, DeDolph’s defense attorney, when after 30 seconds Melgar did not wake up, the SEALs and Marines unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the soldier.
In an Army investigation, prosecutors said that the SEALs left out critical details like the duct tape used and the Marines’ presence. Their leaving out these details led to the obstruction of justice charges.
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 CPO in August 2017 although he had admitted to 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.”
The military jury reached a verdict quickly, according to DeDolph’s attorney.
“The jury deliberated on a sentence in less time than the lawyers argued their points, and it would have been virtually impossible for them to do more than a cursory review of the significant volume of evidence given to them just when they began,” Stackhouse said in a statement.
DeDolph will appeal the sentence to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals and then will petition for parole when eligible, Stackhouse said.
He is the third servicemember to be sentenced in connection to Melgar’s death. In 2019, Matthews was sentenced to a year in prison. Maxwell was sentenced to four years. Madera-Rodrigues’s trial is to be held in April.