29 Palms Hospitalman Guilty On 2 Of 5 Charges In De Leon Death

 A Navy medical corpsman who was present when Hospitalman 3rd Class Michael Vincent De Leon was killed in a shooting incident on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base on August 16, 2019 was found guilty on two of the five charges that were lodged against him by the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps.
Mason Williams, 23, charged with reckless endangerment, violation of a lawful general order, dereliction of duty, drunk and disorderly conduct and making a false official statement, came before a special court martial convened at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center on June 14. Col. S.F. Keane served as the judge presiding over Williams’ court martial.
The case that was pursued against Williams was complicated by the manner in which Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents interrogated Williams during their investigation into the shooting death.
In May, a naval judge in a previous hearing held at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County made a preliminary finding in Williams’ favor after his lawyers argued that the investigators did not adequately apprise Hospitalman 3rd Class Williams of his rights before they grilled him, using psychological and physical tactics, including misrepresentations, which his lawyers said ultimately led him into making making false admissions and confessions to acts he had not engaged in.
Judge Keane, consistent with a previous court finding that Williams’ statements were coerced in violation of his Miranda rights and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, did not allow some of the statements Williams made to the investigators to be heard by the jury hearing the case.
The jury came up short of a guilty finding on the reckless endangerment, violation of a lawful general order and making a false official statement charges, but on Thursday, June 17 found Williams guilty of dereliction of duty and disorderly conduct.
Neither the San Bernardino Superior Court nor the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office took up the matter pertaining to the actions of Williams and four other medical corpsmen who were present at a Friday night party at a base housing unit when De Leon was shot in the head as he stood in the residential unit’s living room. Rather, the matter was left to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Williams and three of the other hospitalmen – Ryan Dini, Sterling Wold and Jesse Humes – have been identified. A fourth medical corpsman has not been publicly named, as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps reportedly is seeking to secure his testimony to aid in the prosecution of Dini, Wold and Humes.
The broadest set of charges brought were those against Williams, of Fort Lee, Virginia.
Dini, 37, of San Diego is charged with dereliction of duty resulting in death, and drunk and disorderly conduct.
Wold, 28, of New Orleans is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
Humes, 27, of Detroit is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
Initially, what had occurred that fateful summer evening was represented by the military service as a suicide, but the Naval Criminal Investigative Service ultimately undertook an investigation into the matter as a homicide.
Based on the facts disclosed during Williams’ trial and the charges against the four defendants, there does not appear to have been any homicidal or malicious intent involved in what occurred. Rather, the allegations aired so far indicate a combination of intoxication and foolishness led to the fatal event, followed by an effort on the part of those involved to misrepresent what occurred.
De Leon, 30, was off duty and present with Williams, Dini, Wold, Humes and the unidentified corpsman in the housing unit, where an abundance of liquor was being consumed. At some point, a gun was produced. In the course of what was characterized as “horsing around,” the gun was “dry fired” while pointed at De Leon and perhaps others in the room.
Dry firing is defined as simulating the discharge of a firearm that is not loaded with live ammunition.
Sometime later, the firearm or another one, this time with bullets in it, came out and was aimed and fired at De Leon, who sustained a single shot to the head.
The other corpsmen, all of whom had extensive training in medical response and are referred to as medics, failed, or were unable, to administer lifesaving assistance to De Leon. There followed a several minute delay after the shooting before a 911 call was made. That call came from DeLeon’s cellphone. The caller reported the incident as a “suicide.”
After the shooting, a report on the matter was provided to Major General Roger Turner, then the commander of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms.
De Leon was born in San Antonio, Texas on October 18, 1988, to Sandra Garcia De Leon and Jose De Leon Jr. of Katy, Texas. Michael, with an older brother, Jonathan, spent his early childhood in Harlingen, Texas. In 1997, his family moved to Houston, where De Leon attended and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2006. Upon graduation, he attended Universal Technical Institute in Houston, training to become an auto mechanic.
In 2015, at the age of 26, De Leon enlisted in the United States Navy, doing basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Command in Illinois. He was tracked to become a hospital corpsman and was educated at the training center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas for medical personnel. He was ultimately assigned to the Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms in the occupational therapy unit. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion 11th Marines, First Marine Division.
The jury hearing the case against Williams called for his reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest position in the Navy, that of seaman recruit.
Dini, the highest ranking of the hospitalmen present when the shooting took place and for whom his lawyers had earlier proposed a rejected plea deal, is the next of the defendants set to go to trial, which is scheduled to commence on July 19.
-Mark Gutglueck

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