Hazing News

Melgar defendant found guilty: Stars and Stripes

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NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews will spend the next year in a military prison after pleading guilty Thursday for his actions in the 2017 strangulation death of a Green Beret in Mali.

In admitting his guilt, Matthews described a botched attempt to haze Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar alongside three other special operators serving in the Malian capital city of Bamako in the early morning of June 4, 2017. Matthews described the plan hatched at a local restaurant over late night drinks and food as “juvenile,” as he and the others conspired to break into Melgar’s private room with a sledgehammer, restrain him with duct tape and film him in order to “embarrass him.” Melgar’s death was the result of a chokehold by Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph, according to prosecutors.

Matthews, 33, told the judge overseeing his court-martial, Navy Capt. Michael J. Luken, that Melgar’s death was “tragic, but completely unintended.” He accepted a deal from prosecutors to avoid murder charges during a court-martial at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., agreeing to plead guilty to charges that he conspired to commit an assault and battery, unlawful entry and obstructed justice by lying to investigators about who was involved in Melgar’s death.

Matthews told Luken that the group had not intended to kill Melgar, but they wanted to “remediate” him for perceived performance issues and a “slight” from the previous night, accusing him of abandoning two Marines in an area of Bamako with which they were unfamiliar.

“Words cannot express how deeply I regret those events and how remorseful I am,” Matthews said. “The Navy expected me to be a leader. I am tormented by my complacency at a time when my teammates required my guidance and the situation required bold, corrective action.”

Following an all-day hearing, Luken determined Matthews — who has served with the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team 6, since 2005 — would spend a year in prison for his involvement in the death of Melgar.

With the shoulders of his service dress blue uniform slumping, Matthews stared straight forward as the judge announced his sentence to the courtroom. Luken also sentenced Matthews to a two-grade reduction in rank to petty officer 2nd class and a bad conduct discharge. The yearlong prison sentence was the maximum confinement time that Matthews faced as part of his plea deal with prosecutors.

Matthews is the first of four special operators who will face a judge in Melgar’s death. As part of his plea agreement, Matthews agreed to testify in the cases against the other accused servicemembers in Melgar’s death — DeDolph and Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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