Ending a case that had dragged on for 2 ½ years, Navy Region Southwest’s commander Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar dropped all war crimes charges against Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Daniel V. Dambrosio Jr. and two special operator chief petty officers — Xavier Silva and David N. Swarts — plus their former commanding officer, Lt. Jason L. Webb.
Military prosecutors in San Diego had accused them of abusing detainees at Village Stability Platform Kalach in the Chora District of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province on May 31, 2012.
Although authorities conceded that most of the abuse stemmed from Afghan Local Police militiamen beating villagers with clubs and car antennas, one detainee allegedly died after a round of brutal questioning, and investigators believed the SEALs could’ve done more to prevent the maltreatment.
Within the closed SEAL community, however, the case was seen as politically driven retribution brought by brass far from the battlefield and spurred by press accounts in late 2015 that pointed a spotlight at a murky Afghanistan counter-insurgency mission three years earlier.
The four SEALs had voluntarily entered non-judicial punishment proceedings, a Trident Review Board and other disciplinary hearings and were cleared, only to be charged at court-martial on Jan. 19, 2017, with what they said was little new evidence brought to the case.
Bolivar had been mulling a plea deal that would send them back to NJP , but on Tuesday she quashed the case, two weeks before a court-martial trial loomed.
“Military prosecutors informed Adm. Bolivar that the evidence from the 2012 case has degraded to the point where they believe obtaining convictions is no longer likely,” said Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O’Rourke in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.
After consulting with her staff judge advocate, Capt. Donald King, Adm. Bolivar concurred, O’Rourke indicated.