Following an eight-day court-martial, an airman who was arrested in June and accused of staging an insider attack on a U.S. military base in Syria last year that left four service members injured has been acquitted of all charges.
On Wednesday, a jury found Tech. Sgt. David W. Dezwaan Jr., of the 75th Air Base Wing out of Utah, not guilty of charges ranging from dereliction of duty and destroying military property to reckless endangerment and aggravated assault, according to a statement from Hill Air Force Base.
Dezwaan's legal team -- consisting of attorneys Philip Cave and Nathan Freeburg, as well as Area Defense Counsels Maj. Luke Gilhooly and Capt. Nathan Wiebenga -- said their client had been in pre-trial confinement for nearly nine months.
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"After about six hours of deliberation, a panel of three enlisted persons and five officers found Dezwaan not guilty of all charges," Cave told Military.com in a statement Thursday. "He was held in a cell 23 hours a day. He is happy and relieved to be back with his family, friends and many supporters."
Dezwaan had deployed as a member of the 75th Air Base Wing to Syria, where he specialized in explosive ordnance disposal.
Investigators identified him as a suspect when they were looking into what occurred at Green Village, a small U.S. base in Syria just north of the Euphrates River, after explosions hit two buildings inside the base walls on April 7, 2022.
As a result of the blast, four service members were treated for "minor injuries and possible traumatic brain injuries," officials said in a statement at the time.
While investigators originally thought the attack was the result of indirect fire to the base, a week later, U.S. Central Command issued a statement clarifying it was caused by "the deliberate placement of explosive charges by an unidentified individual(s) at an ammunition holding area and shower facility."
Cave, an attorney at the Cave & Freeburg law firm in Virginia who specializes in military justice, told Military.com in a brief phone interview Wednesday evening that many of the details in the case were not made public but did say that there were gaps in the prosecution's timeline.
"Basically, their case was based on the idea that it was an insider attack," Cave told Military.com. "They had evidence that they thought that Dezwaan had created a couple of devices to go off. ... But what the government missed, or didn't investigate, was that there was a sort of an alibi."
Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, the commander of the 9th Air Force, told Military.com in an emailed statement Thursday that he appreciated the efforts put into the Air Force's cases.
"I am grateful for the close collaboration with the leadership teams at Air Force Materiel Command and Hill Air Force Base over the duration of this case," Grynkewich said. "We appreciate the efforts of everyone involved and continue to trust the Air Force's judicial process."
There are fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops and special operators in the country to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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