More news on the trial of a mercenary who committed a war crime in Afghanistan, while working for the Human Terrain System:
03 February 2009
Civilian Contractor Pleads Guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter of Afghan Detainee
(Alexandria, Virginia) – Don Michael Ayala, a civilian contractor stationed in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty today to voluntary manslaughter in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in the death of Abdul Salam while on patrol in Chehel Gazi, Afghanistan, on November 4, 2008. According to court documents, Salam had doused Ayala’s civilian contractor teammate, Ms. Paula Loyd, with gasoline, ignited it and fled in the direction of Ayala and several U.S. soldiers. Ayala and the soldiers tackled Salam and restrained him. Minutes later, when Ayala was informed of Ms. Loyd’s condition and while Salam was still restrained, Ayala fired a single round in to Salam’s head, killing him instantly. The maximum sentence Ayala could receive is 15 years.
Ms. Loyd, 36, suffered second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body and was subsequently evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where she died from her injuries on January 7, 2009.
U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton set a sentencing date of May 8, 2009. Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Rita M. Glavin, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, made the announcement.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael E. Rich, Special Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Richter and former Domestic Security Section Trial Attorney Christopher Graveline.
THE STATEMENT OF FACTS in the case against Ayala by the U.S. Government.
Contradictions and Questions
According to at least some definitions, “voluntary manslaughter” involves a notion of killing committed as an “act of passion,” where there was no prior intent to kill, and that the circumstances of the killing were of a kind that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed (source, source). As someone without legal training, there is a limit to what I can understand and interpret about how this can be deemed as applicable in this case.
First, any mercenary goes into a war zone with an intent to kill, so that is locked in from the start.
Second, if the attack on Paula Loyd was what caused Ayala to become emotionally or mentally disturbed, like a reasonable person, then what does that say about the rest of the team and the soldiers who were present? To say that “anyone would have acted like Ayala under the same circumstances,” does not explain why it was only Ayala who acted in that manner.
Third, the Human Terrain System’s own “In memoriam” page for Paula Loyd, casts Ayala’s state of mind in doubt — he could not possibly have been as agitated as his plea would suggest. The HTS website claims the following: “Her [Paula Loyd’s] teammate, who was standing close by, immediately submerged her in a stream, extinguishing the flames. After the flames were out, Paula (with remarkable courage and aplomb) looked at her hands and said, ‘Gee, these look bad. Do you think I’ll be able to finish my report?’.” Loyd was immediately submerged in a stream — she could not have suffered wounds to the extent that we all know she suffered, but which nonetheless HTS suggests must have been far less severe. Loyd was also in fairly good shape, she could speak, and she even joked about the matter — or at least so her employers claim. If Loyd seemed to be less than agitated, why was Ayala instead driven hysterically mad?
Fourth, why was Ayala not handed over to Afghan authorities to be tried in Afghanistan, for a crime against a national, on Afghan soil?
By accepting Ayala’s plea bargain, and proceeding to sentencing, the court has made no room for such basic questions to even be aired. They are null and void. What “justice” there can be without even a semi-adequate discussion of these and others questions, is something that is up in the air. More down to earth, one fact remains: cowboy justice has prevailed. In this, there is nothing new, nothing surprising.