Navy SEAL pleads guilty in Norfolk in hazing death of Green Beret

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, Green Beret, died from non-combat related injuries in Mali in June 2017. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the U.S. Army)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, Green Beret, died from non-combat related injuries in Mali in June 2017. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

NORFOLK — A  Navy SEAL has pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges 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.

Matthews is one of four U.S. service members who were charged with murder and other crimes in the hazing-related death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Texas native.

“I can’t describe how sorry I am for the death of Staff Sergeant Melgar,” Matthews told the court. “I am truly sorry.”

Military prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge against Matthews, who agreed to testify against a fellow Navy SEAL and two Marines who were also charged in the incident.

In the first detailed public account of Melgar’s death in Mali, Matthews said he had agreed to help the other three defendants haze Melgar over perceived slights against his fellow troops.

Among those slights, Matthews said, was an incident in which Melgar, while riding a motorcycle to a party at a diplomatic embassy in the capital city of Bamako, drove off from the two Marines following in another vehicle. Matthews suggested that the Marines felt Melgar had abandoned them in an urban setting that has been the target of terrorist activity.

Matthews described the incident as “just one of a number of performance and behavioral issues” with Melgar, who was perceived by fellow troops as not being a team player.

Matthews said the plans became “more juvenile” as he and the other three service members hung out at a restaurant discussing how to handle Melgar.

Matthews said that while Melgar was in his bedroom, he and the others broke down the door with a sledgehammer for “dramatic effect,” then bound his wrists and ankles with duct tape. They planned to record the incident on video to embarrass Melgar in what Matthews described as a “known remediation,” or hazing ritual within the special forces community.

At some point, Matthews said, the other Navy SEAL applied a chokehold to Melgar, who became unresponsive and was unable to be resuscitated.

Prior to the hearing, Matthews’ attorney, Grover Baxley, said Melgar’s death “was an unforeseen accident that has dramatically impacted the lives of everyone involved.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.