A military judge has permanently dismissed all charges against a U.S. Navy corpsman who was charged with negligent homicide in the death of a Green Beret veteran in Iraq in 2019.
On Wednesday, military judge Navy Cmdr. Hayes C. Larsen dismissed all charges against Navy Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet, in the 2019 death of Rick Anthony Rodriguez, a U.S. Army Green Beret veteran who was working at the time as a contractor in Iraq. Gilmet stood accused alongside Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher, and Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron of killing Rodriguez in a negligent homicide case.
Gilmet’s attorneys had argued Marine Col. Christopher Shaw made several inappropriate and threatening statements against then-defense counsel, Cpt. Matthew Thomas, creating unlawful influence in the Court Martial case. In his ruling, Larsen agreed that Shaw had exhibited unlawful command influence and determined dismissal of the charges against Gilmet is appropriate because “Shaw’s actions cannot be unwound and their taint cannot be removed” from the case.
Larsen dismissed all charges against Gilmet with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought against Gilmet again.
According to United American Patriots (UAP), which has supported Gilmet, Draher and Negron throughout the case, Rodriguez died after assaulting the two Marines and Navy corpsman during an episode of drunken belligerence.
“The three MARSOC Raiders were aggressively confronted by an inebriated civilian contractor while on authorized liberty in Erbil, Iraq. One of the Raiders acted in self-defense and neutralized the threat with one punch which rendered the belligerent contractor unconscious,” UAP wrote.
The two Marines and Navy corpsman took Rodriguez back to their base and, according to UAP, watched over him through the night, but he eventually stopped breathing and had to be medically evacuated from Iraq to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where he died four days later.
Gilmet was subsequently charged with negligent homicide and other charges relating to Rodriguez’s death.
In November 2021, Shaw convened a meeting with the military lawyers of Camp Lejeune’s Defense Service Office, including Gilmet’s then-counsel, Cpt. Thomas. During the meeting, Shaw discussed proposed policy changes for how judge advocates.
During the discussion, Thomas reportedly asked Shaw “What is being done to protect the attorneys in that position from outside influences such as political pressures, media pressure and general societal pressures?”
Shaw responded, “Captain Thomas, I know who you are and what cases you are on, and you are not protected.”
“The FitRep (fitness report) process may shield you,” Shaw continued, “but you are not protected. Our community is small and there are promotion boards and the lawyer on the promotion board will know you.”
In December, following Shaw’s comments, Thomas and another military attorney on his defense team requested to withdraw from the case. Their decision to withdraw left Gilmet without two attorneys he had worked closely with for about two years and whom he had felt had formed a cohesive team for his case.
As UAP wrote, the withdrawal of part of his defense team so far into the case left forced Gilmet “to decide between moving forward with a compromised defense counsel, or to part ways with the defense team that he had built cohesion with for several years to avoid the effects of UCI.”
UAP said Larsen’s decision also “sets a precedent” for how the cases for Draher and Negron, who are scheduled to appear in court next Thursday.
While the charges against Gilmet have been dismissed, civilian attorney Colby Vokey said he is concerned the prosecution team may try to appeal the dismissal of the charges and the Navy could still decide to separate Gilmet from the service right before he is eligible to retire.
“Any further punishment aimed at Chief Gilmet in the form of an administrative separation so close to his retirement would rob him on the benefits that he has earned over his nearly 20-year career,” UAP wrote.