Army Sergeant Accused of Murdering Panamanian Girlfriend Faces Court Martial

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What are the possible consequences if you are found guilty of murder after a court martial?

From the petty to the serious, military members commit all types of crimes and, therefore, court martial proceedings are conducted for all kinds of offenses. The most serious of these is murder. Recently, an army sergeant was accused of killing his girlfriend while stationed in Panama.

Army Master Sergeant, Omar Velez-Pagan, was on assignment training Panamanian police officers. Although he was married and had a family back in the United States, he had a series of affairs while in Panama. One of these relationships was with 25 year-old Vanesa Rodriguez.

One Sunday in June of 2014 Velez-Pagan and a number of other military members and police officers decided to spend the day at the beach. Rodriguez tagged along. Velez-Pagan alleges that Rodriguez became intoxicated and “obnoxious.” Due to her behavior, he decided to drive to another town to eat so that she could relax. On the way back she became argumentative and physically abusive. He tried to stop her by intimidating her, but ended up getting scratched and eventually punched and had to drive off the road. 

He admits that he hit her back after being punched and claims that at one point, Rodriguez jumped out of the vehicle. He stopped to go after her and alleges that the vehicle was left in gear by accident. It began to roll backward, and even though he jumped in to try to stop the vehicle, Rodriguez was run over. At this time, he picked her up and put her in the passenger seat to drive her to the hospital, but, she died on the way.  So, instead of reporting the incident to police, he decided to bury her.  He claims he could not do it and left her body in a rural area where Panamanian police discovered her the next day.

Now Velez-Pagan is facing a court martial for murder. The prosecution is arguing that he killed Rodriguez during an episode resulting from steroid use. The jury will attempt to determine whether her death was intentional or accidental. If Velez-Pagan is found guilty of murder he could be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Court martial proceedings are a serious matter.  If you are facing a military tribunal in any location, you would be best served by contacting a private court martial attorney today.

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