NORFOLK, Va. — A U.S. Navy SEAL pleaded guilty for his role in the 2017 strangulation death of a U.S. Army Green Beret in Africa.
Adam Matthews entered the plea at a court-martial hearing Thursday at Naval Station Norfolk. He is one for four U.S. service members charged with murder and other crimes in the hazing-related death of Army Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar, a Texas native.
The five men were stationed in the African country of Mali. Charging documents describe a situation in which some of the nation's most elite military personnel — including two members of the famed SEAL Team Six — broke into Melgar's bedroom while he was sleeping, bound him with duct tape and put him into a choke hold.
Matthews pleaded guilty to charges of hazing, housebreaking, assault, and obstruction of justice. Matthews opted to be tried by a judge alone.
Matthews' attorney, Grover Baxley, said that as part of a plea agreement, charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter were dropped.
Baxley said that Melgar's death "was an unforeseen accident that has dramatically impacted the lives of everyone involved."
Expressing remorse at Thursday's hearing, Matthews recounted the events leading up to Melgar’s death.
According to Matthews, on the night of June 3, Melgar left two Marines in an unknown part of Mali on the way to an embassy event. Those Marines felt "slighted" so they devised a plan with Matthews and another member of SEAL Team 6, special operator Tony DeDolph, to "remediate Melgar."
Just after midnight they broke into his room, duct-taped him, put him into a chokehold, and wanted to record video of it in hopes of changing Melgar's behavior.
According to Matthews, "Taping is remediation in the special warfare community."
Instead, Melgar died of asphyxiation. Matthews said that he and DeDolph then lied about what happened to investigators.
"I can’t describe how sorry I am for the death of Staff Sergeant Meglar and the pain I have caused," said Matthews. "I am truly sorry."
Matthews has agreed to testify against DeDolph and the two Marines who were also charged in the incident.
“I look forward to assisting the Navy and the Melgar family,” Matthews said.
The sentencing phase of Matthews' court-martial was to begin Thursday afternoon.
Melgar was a native of Lubbock, Texas. He had deployed to Afghanistan twice before his death in Bamako, Mali, in June 2017, Army officials said.
The two Marines charged in the case are listed as being part of Special Operations Command.
The SEALs belong to the Navy Special Warfare Development Group. The unit is better known as SEAL Team 6, which participated in the May 2011 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at his compound.