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Lawyer Seeks 'Friendly Fire' Documents

October 19, 2003|From Associated Press

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — The lawyer for an F-16 pilot charged with dereliction for accidentally bombing Canadian troops in Afghanistan last year filed a motion Saturday to force the Air Force to hand over documents related to 17 other "friendly fire" accidents.

The lawyer, Charles W. Gittins, has said communications problems and poor command decisions are a cause of many of the Air Force's friendly fire accidents, including that of his client, Maj. Harry Schmidt.

Details of the 17 other incidents were not immediately released, but Gittins said one of them, also involving an F-16, was similar to Schmidt's. Schmidt faces up to six months in prison if convicted in a court-martial.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight wounded when Schmidt dropped a 500-pound bomb near Kandahar in April 2002. He has said he thought the soldiers' live-ammunition exercise was enemy anti-aircraft fire.

An Air Force judge, Col. Mary Boone, considered eight pretrial motions in a preliminary hearing that ended Saturday, including whether the government should be forced to release to the public more than 1,000 pages of documents related to Schmidt's case. She said she would respond to the motions next week.

Schmidt, 38, and fellow Illinois Air National Guard pilot Maj. William Umbach, the mission commander, were originally charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault. However, Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, the 8th Air Force commander, recommended that the charges be dismissed and that Schmidt face possible administrative punishment instead.

Schmidt turned down the offer, and Carlson ordered the pilot tried on the lesser charge of dereliction of duty. Umbach, 44, was given a letter of reprimand and allowed to retire.

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