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Sgt. 1st Class Robert Nicoson, the paratrooper who was accused of leading a patrol into an unnecessary gunfight in Syria before ordering them to delete videos of the incident, was acquitted of all charges Friday evening after a court-martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The soldier’s civilian defense attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, argued that the patrol had briefed leaders that it would go to the checkpoint and the alleged threats Nicoson made were intended to deter an attack. Accusations that Nicoson tried to cover up the incident ultimately lost traction, as well.
“He was fully acquitted of all of the allegations,” Stackhouse told Army Times.
Spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, Lt. Col. Brett Lea, confirmed the acquittal Saturday morning.
The jury was comprised of two lieutenant colonels and six command sergeants major, Stackhouse said. They found Nicoson not guilty of all seven allegations. A motion for a finding of not guilty was granted to an eighth allegation at the end of the evidence phase.
“The trial lasted for a week and over 20 witnesses were called to the stand to provide testimony to a combat experienced panel,” Stackhouse said in an email to Army Times. “After just over 2-hours of deliberations, the panel president delivered the verdict in open court.
“Sergeant First Class Nicoson, and his family, continue to be humbled and thankful to those that have supported him and stood by his side.”
The charges against Nicoson came after an Aug. 17, 2020 incident at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria manned by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nicoson’s patrol drove up to the checkpoint and a gunfight unfolded.
Originally, Nicoson was charged with dismounting his vehicle and threatening to kill the pro-regime fighters if they did not allow his unit, Blackhorse Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, through. U.S. officials said at the time of the incident that the Americans had initially been cleared to move through the checkpoint.
After “receiving safe passage from pro-regime forces,” the Americans “came under small arms fire from individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint” and returned fire in self-defense, Operation Inherent Resolve spokespeople said at the time.
A roughly 10-minute gunfight reportedly erupted, leading to the killing of one Syrian fighter and the wounding of two others. There were no U.S. casualties. A portion of the gunfight was caught on video, though it does not show how it began.
Read the full article at Army Times