Panel begins deliberations in AFN murder trial
This story has been updated.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A panel of officers and enlisted began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Oliver, who is charged with killing one of his American Forces Network colleagues
Government and defense lawyers delivered more than four hours of closing arguments Tuesday after two weeks of testimony that included Oliver taking the stand.
An AFN technician, Oliver, is charged with premeditated murder, making false official statements, obstructing justice and aggravated assault.
The panel, which includes four officers and six enlisted members, is similar to a civilian jury. However, unlike a civilian jury, which must reach a unanimous decision in criminal cases, only two-thirds of the military panel must return a guilty verdict for a conviction.
If the panel finds Oliver not guilty of premeditated murder, it can still find him guilty of a lesser offense, ranging from unpremeditated murder to involuntary manslaughter.
During testimony Friday, Oliver acknowledged lying to German and Air Force investigators who questioned him after he was stopped by police early in the morning of Dec. 14, 2013. At that time, police found the body of Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov in the passenger seat of his car.
Independent autopsies by German and U.S. military authorities both found that Chepusov, a Navy broadcaster with AFN, died as a result of strangulation. Oliver testified that he choked Chepusov after a night of drinking but did not intend to kill him.
Oliver said he suspected Chepusov was dead and was on his way to dump the sailor’s body when he was pulled over by police.
Two of the charges against Oliver — aggravated assault and one obstruction charge — stem from a separate incident in Ohio from 2012. Oliver testified he attacked a former friend who was dating his estranged wife. The former friend, in a video deposition, said Oliver agreed to stop attacking him only after he agreed not to press charges.
Air Force Judge (Col.) Donald Eller told the panel to take as long as they needed to reach a verdict. The panel deliberated for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon before breaking for the evening. They were to resume Wednesday morning.