December 7, 2009 did not simply mark the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, where the United States both lost and bore heroes; it was also the day that 2 Navy SEALs accused of mistreating a suspect in the brutal killing of 4 Blackwater contractors were arraigned in military court.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas appeared before military court in Norfolk, Virginia. Outside the Norfolk Naval Station gate, several protesters held signs of support for the Navy SEALs. Donna Zovko, mother of slain contractor Jerry Zovko, was able to make the trip to Norfolk from Cleveland; she was said to be among the crowd who gathered to give support to the SEALs.
McCabe, who is the SEAL accused of actually striking suspect Ahmed Hashim Abed in the midsection, was able to talk to reporters. They are well aware of the outrage that resulted out of their being charged, calling the outpouring of support for their predicament “phenomenal”. We are undoubtedly among those who are pleased that we are able to do something to boost the morale of the SEALs in our own little way. From the Internet to the halls of Congress, there is support for McCabe, Huertas and Keefe.
Huertas has already entered a plea of not guilty, and his trial has been set for January 11, 2010. McCabe’s trial has been set for January 19, and he has opted to defer entering his plea until then.
The third SEAL implicated in the assault charges, Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe, does not yet have a schedule for arraignment. They have all opted for a trial instead of a non-judicial reprimand, which would have resulted in a loss of rank, because they wanted their names cleared, according to Julio Huertas’ lawyer Monica Lombardi.
Military attorneys did not comment on the arraignment, although officials have said that people should not resort to “rush judgment” and that a true picture will emerge when all the evidence is heard. We will certainly be waiting for the evidence that prosecutors are talking about.