Contributed by: Don WinnerBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez-Pagan has been charged with "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) this afternoon.
MSG Velez-Pagan remains in military pre-confinement in North Carolina, pending the date of a pretrial hearing.
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) continues its investigation of this case in conjunction with the government of Panama.
A statement issued today by Kim Hanson of the Public & Congressional Affairs at the Headquarters of the US Army Material Command says "We give our assurances to the Government and people of Panama that U.S. military authorities will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action."
Editor's Comment: OK, first things first. Velez was charged under Article 118 of the UCMJ - murder. It's very important to point out that he was not charged under Article 119 which is manslaughter. Specifically, Article 118 (1) deals with premeditated murder, and apparently the conditions indicated Velez didn't have a "premeditated design to kill." In other words, Velez didn't plot or plan to kill his girlfriend.
Rather, Velez was charged under Article 118 (2) - which deals with unpremeditated murder. The following elements should exist for the accused to be charged in this way;
(a) That a certain named or described person is dead;
(b) That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;
(c) That the killing was unlawful; and
(d) That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon a person.
Head's up, I'm going to speculate somewhat here. Velez is together with his girlfriend. They get into a fight. He punches her in the face - either once or several times. She dies as a result of the injuries inflicted by Velez. If that's the way it went down, then Velez is guilty of "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 (2) of the UCMJ. He didn't plan on killing his girlfriend, but that's what happened anyway, because he intended to "inflict great bodily harm" when he punched her in the face.
Remember this first article I published last Wednesday - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez - Prime Suspect In Murder Of Panamanian Woman - said "The Panamanian woman, nicknamed "La chiricana", had multiple lesions on her anatomy, especially in the face, ranging from beatings to lacerations." So there's a pretty good chance that the potential speculative scenario described above is exactly what happened.
It should also be pointed out that Velez is not being held on Ft. Bragg. He's being held in the County Jail, run by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. And although the US Material Command press release says Velez was charged today, the online record available through the Cumberland Detention Center Active Inmate Search system still lists "military hold" under the "charge" section on their database. I'm sure that will be updated soon.
In Panama, there's a tangible concern that the US government will make some sort of effort to cover up, protect, or not fully prosecute Velez for the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez. The US Embassy and SOUTHCOM should make a concerted effort to point out what most Americans consider to be obvious and unnecessary. Things are different in the US. In Panama, people are fully accustomed to seeing no justice whatsoever. The rich and powerful regularly and routinely get away with just about everything. There needs to be a conversation, reinforcing the message that in the US, there is a functioning justice system which is much better at prosecuting, convicting, and punishing criminals. Basically - don't worry. If the evidence indicates Velez is guilty, then chances are the system will work, and he will spend the rest of his life behind bars at Ft. Leavenworth.
Mugshot - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez has been charged with murder, in the death of his girlfriend, Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, of Panama. Velez was returned to the United States and arrested on 26 June 2014.
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