Marine who dumped thousands of rounds of stolen ammo loses appeal

A marine sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in stealing ammunition from the government, and then dumping even more ammunition and explosives into a ravine to avoid capture, will have no reprieve from his sentence , a military appeals court has ruled.

Sgt. Gunnar Ian Naughton was sentenced in July 2021 by a military judge at Camp Pendleton, California, after pleading guilty to dereliction of duty, wrongful disposal of military property, theft and obstruction of justice.

In addition to time in prison, his punishment included forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction in rank to private, and a bad conduct discharge.

Naughton was posted with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as an Arms, Ammunition and Explosives Officer – a role which meant that he was in charge of accounting for the unit’s ammunition, and at the end of each training day Collected and reorganized unused ammunition.

In September 2020, Naughton and a handful of other soldiers devised a plan that would take advantage of the trust inherent in that role: they would pocket some of the ammo they collected rather than return it to military storage. Naughton, according to court documents, would then falsify logbook entries to cover up the crime.

Online sting leads to missing ammunition, explosives from California Marine base

While Naughton’s attorney would argue that the Marines were filming some 840 5.56mm rounds and other ammunition so that they could shoot it on their own time, one of the alleged perpetrators, Cpl. The lawyer said that Jason Peters tried to sell some of it online. Peters was arrested in February 2021.

Upon learning of Peters’ arrest, Naughton made a desperate effort to destroy all evidence of the conspiracy.

She asked one of the soldiers, Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class Arthur Goldsborough, to delete signals and WhatsApp messages in group chats that could implicate the Marines, and several of the ammo stolen from the home of another conspirator, Staff Sgt. Pull the box. Brian Newport, so that he could hide them from the base.

Ultimately, Naughton attempted to destroy all remaining evidence by throwing it into a ravine. However, he was caught in the same law enforcement sting that had trapped Peters and seven more soldiers.

According to a published charge sheet, the ammunition that Naughton dumped was valued at more than $4,000 and included three grenades and more than 11,000 rounds of small arms ammunition.

In his appeal to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, Naughton alleged that his defense attorneys, including civilian attorney Phil Stackhouse, did not defend him effectively. They said they had failed to obtain a “substantial assistance” letter from military prosecutors, which said Naughton’s help in building the cases against the other conspirators deserved a lighter sentence.

Naughton also argued that his legal team could have taken that same recommendation letter and presented it to the convening authority — the general overseeing prosecutions — to request clemency that included a suspended bad-conduct discharge. .

In a per Kurim appellate decision published on 25 October, the judges closed these arguments, finding Naughton’s own actions and the responses of his legal team could have had a negative impact on his case.

They write that Stackhouse, in a sworn declaration in response to Naughton’s claims, testified to asking about receiving a substantial assistance letter, adding that a member of the military prosecution team responded that they would look into it. Will do, but never followed it further. The declaration also states that there were several reasons for the prosecution team not writing the letter.

While Naughton had two post-trial meetings with law enforcement officials, the appellate ruling states, he barred sharing information about another person who was allegedly given some of the stolen ammo: his father-in-law. .

“According to the civil defense attorney, ‘the special agent, the prosecutor, the senior trial attorney, and the regional trial attorney were angry after the first interview’ because [Naughton] shall not disclose the location of the other missing explosives until legal representation is secured for his father-in-law,” the judgment said.

It said the encounter prompted an email from the regional trial attorney expressing concern that Naughton was not abiding by his plea agreement.

“Given the circumstances [Naughton’s] We find it reasonable that trial defense counsel did not pursue an adequate assistance letter because he had no reason to believe that trial defense counsel would provide one,” the ruling states. .

Reached via email, Stackhouse declined to comment on the matter.

Naughton, who was credited with serving 147 in pre-trial confinement, has now completed the prison term of his sentence.

Peters would eventually be prosecuted by civilian authorities, Pleading guilty to possession of stolen explosives in July 2021, At least one of the other soldiers, all of whom were assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, had their charges dismissed; The other matters were examined and awarded separately.

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