Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez was convicted Thursday night of involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the choking death of a Green Beret in Mali during an attempted hazing and sexual assault.
In addition to involuntary manslaughter, Madera-Rodriguez was found guilty of conspiracy to commit assault and battery, conspiracy to obstruct justice, hazing and making false official statements, the Navy said in a Friday news release.
Madera-Rodriguez, a Marine Raider, was found not guilty of felony murder. He also was found not guilty of burglary but convicted of housebreaking, a lesser offense.
Madera-Rodriguez’s case was the last of four special operations troops to be decided in the June 4, 2017, death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar during a deployment in Bamako, Mali.
One of his co-conspirators -- Marine Raider Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, who previously pleaded guilty to charges connected to Melgar’s death and was sentenced to four years in prison – admitted to being involved in a plot to haze and humiliate Melgar, that resulted in his death.
In a written statement reported by the Washington Post in 2019, Maxwell told authorities that he, Madera-Rodriguez and two SEALs, Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph and Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews, planned to break into Melgar’s bedroom with a sledgehammer at about 5 a.m., after a night of heavy drinking.
The four planned to choke Melgar into unconsciousness, tie him up, and have a Malian security guard sexually assault him while a British man videotaped the assault on a cell phone, Maxwell said in the statement. Marine Corps Times reported that DeDolph and the others disliked Melgar and felt he had slighted them, seeking to embarrass him through hazing.
But when DeDolph bound Melgar with duct tape and put him in a chokehold, he accidentally strangled him to death.
Madera-Rodriguez’s acquittal on the felony murder charge will let him avoid the most severe penalty of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The Navy said sentencing began Friday morning and likely will continue next week, with the involuntary manslaughter conviction carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
DeDolph pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and hazing in January, and he was sentenced to 10 years of confinement and an involuntary discharge. Matthews also pleaded guilty to charges in Melgar’s death and sentenced to one year in prison.
Madera-Rodriguez’s court-martial took place at Naval Station Norfolk, and began June 7. He chose to be tried by a panel of eight service members.