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Pilot in Flawed Bombing Will Face Court-Martial

June 26, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A U.S. fighter pilot who mistakenly bombed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last year, killing four, refused to accept the Air Force's offer of lesser charges Wednesday and will face a court-martial.

The Air Force could prosecute Maj. Harry Schmidt, 37, on involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and dereliction of duty charges, with a possible prison term of 64 years. Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the Louisiana-based 8th Air Force, will determine which charges Schmidt will face.

Schmidt rejected the Air Force's offer that he could instead face an administrative hearing with possible punishments including a reprimand or forfeiture of one month's pay.

His lawyer, Charles W. Gittins, said in an e-mail that the pilot believed he could not get a fair administrative hearing.

Carlson last week recommended the administrative hearing for Schmidt. He also recommended dropping charges against Schmidt's partner in the mission, Maj. William Umbach, and allowing Umbach to retire.

The two Illinois National Guard pilots had been the first Air Force pilots to face the possibility of homicide charges as a result of friendly fire in combat.

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