Houston News & Search
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Photo: COURTESY US ARMY
Family members of Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, who grew up in Houston, and Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Mo. – two of the Green Berets who were killed in the daylight attack outside King Faisal Air Base in Jordan – said FBI officials on Thursday briefed them about the charges against the Jordanian soldier, identified as M’aarek Abu Tayeh.
An assistant to a U.S. government official close to the investigation also confirmed Jordan issued a murder charge against Abu Tayeh, who has been accused of opening fire on the American troops when they returned to the base after training Syrian rebels at a nearby weapons range.
“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a 180 degree switch,” said James Moriarty, a Houston lawyer who has been openly critical of Jordan’s response to the shooting of his son since the beginning.
The grieving Moriarty said the official charge is murder with intent to kill more than one person.
Abu Tayeh also is charged with “insulting the dignity and reputation of the military” and “violating orders and instructions of the military,” said Moriarty.
His son, a University of Texas, Austin graduate, and namesake died in the attack.
The trial of Abu Tayeh will be conducted by a Jordanian military court although no date has been given.
“If it’s open to the public, I’m going to be there,” Moriarty said Thursday night. “I want to see the son-of-a-bitch convicted of murdering my boy.”
Family members were told on a conference call that Abu Tayeh could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted by the military court.
“I would prefer the US. had an extradition in place but that’s not the case,” said Chuck Lewellen, whose son was in the first vehicle allegedly attacked by Abu Tayeh.
Staff Sgt. Lewellen was mortally wounded and died while in route to a hospital in Amman, Jordan’s capital.
Lewellen, who lives in Kirksville, Mo., about 200 miles northwest of St. Louis, said the killings of the American troops amounted to a capital crime and warrant a punishment more severe than life at hard labor.
“But even if he’s convicted, do we have faith in Jordan that he’s going to be in prison for life or is it just a sham?” he said. “Are they going through the motions just to get us off their back?”
On Thursday, a spokeswoman at Jordan’s embassy in Washington could not confirm whether Abu Tayeh has been charged with murder.
Almost from the beginning, family members of the slain Green Berets said Jordan, although a critical ally in the U.S. war against terror groups like ISIS, has not been forthcoming about the shooting.
They said their sons have been accused of rushing the gate and accidently discharging a firearm, causing Abu Tayeh to believe the base was under attack.
“The fact that they did not clear the air until after six months of this is just disappointing,” Lewellen said. “They should let the world know that these guys did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Moriarty and Lewellen both believe their sons were killed as part of a planned attack by Abu Tayeh.
“He set out to kill these Americans,” Moriarty said. “Why he did that, nobody knows. But I’m not buying that he just ‘lost it.’ ”
He said Jordan should also charge at least 11 of its soldiers who were at the scene but failed to intervene.
“They just sat on their hands while my son was murdered,” Moriarty said.
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