This post has been updated with additional statement from defense attorney, Phil Stackhouse.
A Navy SEAL pleaded guilty on Thursday for his part in the 2017 homicide of a special operations soldier, service officials confirmed to USNI News.
As part of the agreement with military prosecutors, Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph pleaded guilty to four charges in the hearing at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., related to the June 4, 2017, death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.
DeDolph pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault, involuntary manslaughter, hazing and obstruction of justice, according to charging documents reviewed by USNI News.
His initial charges included felony murder.
Melgar and DeDolph lived in the same house in Mali as part of the same joint special operations detachment attached to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako.
DeDolph told the judge during the Thursday hearing that he, Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews and Marine Raiders Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell and Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez planned a retaliatory “tape job” as payback for a perceived slight by Melgar to his housemates.
DeDolph and Matthews were members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team 6.
“Melgar was sleeping in his room when the four operators, accompanied by a British citizen and two Malian guards, arrived at the house shared by the SEALs and Green Berets between 5 and 6 a.m., Maxwell testified,” according to The Virginian Pilot in 2019.
After breaking into the room with a sledgehammer, DeDolph used a “rear naked choke,” to force Melgar unconscious and taped him up. After 30 seconds, Melgar was still out.
“Usually by that time, the individual has gotten up,” DeDolph said, according to The Associated Press. “And he did not.”
Following Melgar’s death, the SEALs attempted to cover up what happened by omitting the use of the duct tape and the Marines’ presence in their initial statements to Army investigators, prosecutors alleged.
In a statement, DeDolph’s lawyer said the SEAL never intended to seriously hurt Melgar.
“There was never an intent to hurt Staff Sergeant Melgar during the taping, but the plan included crashing in his door to surprise him out of his sleep – which it did – and wrestling him to the point where a rear naked choke could be performed and then taping him up while he was passed out. That is what happened. Tragically, Staff Sergeant Melgar did not regain consciousness and emergency life saving measures were not successful in saving him,” DeDolph’s attorney, Phil Stackhouse said in a Thursday statement to USNI News.
The trial now enters to the sentencing phase, where a jury will make a recommendation on sentencing. The case is being overseen by Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, who was selected as the Consolidated Disposition Authority to oversee the case.
Matthews, the other SEAL, was sentenced to a year in prison in 2019. Maxwell, one of the Marines, was sentenced to four years.
Madera-Rodriguez, the other Marine, is set to go to trial next month, according to a Navy spokesperson.