NORFOLK, Va. – A U.S. Navy SEAL was sentenced to one year in military prison on Thursday for his role in the 2017 hazing-related death of a U.S. Army Green Beret in Africa.
Adam Matthews is the first of four U.S. service members to face military court proceedings as well as punishment for the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Texas native.
Matthews was sentenced by a military judge at a Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, following a plea agreement he made the same day. Prosecutors dropped a murder charge in exchange for his testimony against another Navy SEAL and two Marines.
“I've carried the weight of Staff Sgt. Melgar's death every minute of every day since that night in Mali,” Matthews said.
Matthews, 33, offered the first detailed public account of Melgar's death, which he described as a botched attempt to “embarrass” him over “slights” perceived by the other men.
Matthews said he joined the group in Mali's capital of Bamako only 36 hours before the incident in June 2017. He said colleagues quickly filled him in on their concerns about Melgar.
Sometime later, Matthews said he and the others broke down Melgar's bedroom door with a sledgehammer for “dramatic effect.” Then they bound his wrists and ankles with duct tape.
They planned to record the incident on video to embarrass Melgar in what Matthews described as a hazing ritual.
At some point, Matthews said, the other Navy SEAL applied a chokehold to Melgar, who became unresponsive and was unable to be resuscitated.
“I am truly sorry,” Matthews told the court. He pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges as well as attempts to cover up the crime.
During the sentencing phase, friends and family described Matthews as that “100-pound kid who wanted to be a Navy SEAL that nobody thought could be.” Matthews suffered injuries in Afghanistan, earning a Purple Heart, among other medals.
Melgar was fearless and “unflappable” under enemy fire, his colleagues said. His wife, Michelle, testified that her husband told her about the “immature” SEALs that he was having trouble with. She also thanked Matthews for coming forward with the truth.
Melgar's mother, Nitza Melgar, was less forgiving. She told Matthews: “You are a disgrace to your Purple Heart.”