The trial of a senior Defense Forces corporal accused of threatening to kill a colleague has been dropped after the soldier changed his plea to a range of offences.
Corporal Sergeant Uel Fisher was re-summoned before a court-martial at McKee Barracks in Dublin, where he pleaded guilty to three counts of minor breaches of good order and discipline and violating Section 168 of the Defense Act.
CS Fisher originally pleaded not guilty to five felonies, including a death threat, at the start of the trial, in violation of Section 5 of the Non-Fatal Offenses Against the Person Act 1997.
The 54-year-old married father of three, who has served in the Defense Forces for 37 years, has been accused of making death threats to Corporal Owen McLoughlin during a social function at the Corporal’s Mess at Finner Camp, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, between November to have November 14 and 15, 2017 with the words: “I will kill you. I’ll get my gun and I’ll fucking shoot you.”
On the second day of the hearing, CS Fisher, assigned to the 28th Infantry Battalion at Finner Camp, admitted using the words in violation of Section 168 of the Defense Act.
He also pleaded guilty to throwing glasses in the corporal mess and telling Corp McLoughlin, “I knew your father. He was a gentleman, but you’re a little ass.”
The Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP) agreed to drop the death threat charges and another intoxication charge after CS Fisher pleaded the alternative charges he faced.
The trial had heard evidence that the alleged offenses were committed near the end of what witnesses had described as a “mass brawl” and “full riot” during a Christmas party at the barracks.
Military judge Col. Michael Campion was informed that a soldier suffered a bleeding mouth after being punched in the face by three other NCOs, while a picture of President Michael D. Higgins – the commander in chief of the Defense Forces – was shattered during the events made the mess look “rumbled”.
As evidence, Corp McLoughlin described a series of altercations between various soldiers in the corporal’s mess after attempts were made to close the bar.
The witness said the atmosphere had been good up to that point, with people watching the Irish football team on TV and attending a karaoke session.
He claimed the CS Fisher incident happened after the defendant threw two beer glasses that nearly hit him in the head.
When confronted, he claimed CS Fisher said he only “cornered” her and continued to throw glasses despite being told he would engage in “idiotic behavior”.
Corp McLoughlin said CS Fisher made offensive remarks at this point, alluding to his father, Corporal Dermot McLoughlin, who was killed by Israeli gunfire in 1987 during his UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon.
He said CS Fisher ran up to him and said he was “going to f*ck kill me” after challenging the corporal about how well he knew his father.
While CS Fisher was held by another soldier, Corp McLoughlin said the defendant threatened to return to his home to get a gun “to blow my f***ing head off”.
Following the defendant’s guilty plea, DMP’s attorney, Lt. Col. Shane Keogh, said Corp McLoughlin had been contacted and insisted he did not wish to become involved in a reconciliation program proposed by the judge.
Lt. Col. Keogh said Corp McLoughlin wanted to testify to the court personally about the victim’s impact before he was due to be released from the Defense Forces on medical parole in early 2023, which he questions.
The court-martial heard that CS Fisher had previously been convicted of another Section 168 violation of the standing order in 2008, for which he received a stern reprimand and a €250 fine.
Sergeant Major David O’Reilly, who was called as a character witness for the defendant, described CS Fisher as “the sharpshooter’s grandfather” in the Defense Forces because of his experience in gunnery training.
He said CS Fisher, who he has known for 15 years, is “very honest, hardworking and loyal.”
Another character witness, Commander Myles Kelleher, described CS Fisher as “one of the ablest and most competent NCOs I’ve worked with” and said the offenses he committed were “very atypical”.
He told the hearing that CS Fisher once helped prevent deaths and injuries through his quick response after a live grenade was dropped near military personnel.
Colonel Campion adjourned the hearing until January 11 to hear testimony about the effects of Corp McLoughlin’s victim.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/trial-of-soldier-over-alleged-threat-to-kill-during-mass-brawl-at-barracks-halted-after-plea-change-42171004.html Trial against soldiers for alleged death threats in mass brawl in barracks after change of plea