On January 7, 2022, an Army court-martial panel (jury) comprised of 2 Lieutenant Colonels and 6 Command Sergeants Major found Sergeant First Class Robert Nicoson, U.S. Army, not guilty of all seven allegations, according to attorney Phil Stackhouse. 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. After just over 2-hours of deliberations, the panel President delivered the verdict in open court.
In August 2020, Army Sergeant First Class Robert Nicoson found himself and 16 of his men fighting their way out of a complex ambush during combat operations in Syria after being waved through a checkpoint. Now SFC Nicoson, who was originally written up for a Bronze Star with valor award for his actions that day, finds himself in hot water with his command for his heroic and justified actions.
The checkpoint ambush was captured on video with aerial footage showing that the enemy forces opened fire after attempting to temporarily detain the American convoy at their checkpoint. As 9-12 hostile personnel began their attack on the Americans, the gunner on SFC Nicoson’s vehicle began to return fire. Realizing that the gunner would need to perform a reload on his crew served weapon, SFC Nicoson and one other enlisted soldier dismounted and exposed themselves multiple times to heavy and sustained enemy fire in order to draw attention away from the vehicle.
Once the majority of hostile forces were neutralized and sustained hostile fire became more sporadic, SFC Nicoson made sure that all of his troops were in their vehicles and they broke contact. The 10-minute active firefight caused damage to the convoy vehicles and resulted in at least one enemy combatant being killed. While there were Apache helicopters overhead, they were not authorized to engage. No Americans were killed during the engagement thanks to a decisive and coordinated response from their enlisted leader on the ground.
Upon breaking contact and returning to base all initially seemed to be well, but the subsequent investigation began to use supposed intel reports from the social media accounts of the enemy forces who had just ambushed the Americans. Would the command really take the word of the enemy of their own troops who were backed with video footage and communications recordings? The answer is yes.
Before SFC Nicoson was charged, his command ignored his constitutional rights that he was innocent until proven guilty and removed him from his official billet and suspended his security clearance.
On April 8, 2021, SFC Nicoson was officially charged with two counts of failure to follow a lawful order, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of wrongful communication, and three counts of obstruction of justice.
SFC Nicoson’s attorney stated, “Sergeant First Class Nicoson, and his family, continue to be humbled and thankful to those that have supported him and stood by his side.”