A 2016 picture of then-Staff Sgt. David Dezwaan, as he inspects the wiring of a simulated radioactive dispersal device at Clear Lake, California. Dezwaan was charged with planting explosives at a US base in Syria which injured four Americans. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings.
An Air Force sergeant will face a general court-martial to determine whether he orchestrated an “insider attack” on a US outpost in Syria in April that injured four service members.
Air Force officials say they are moving forward with a general court-martial against Tech Sgt. David Dezwaan Jr., who prosecutors say set off explosives inside an American base in Syria on Apr. 7, 2022.
Officials initially thought the attack at Mission Support Site Green Village, a small outpost near the Iraq border, was by insurgents but now believe Dezwaan set the charges. In earlier court hearings, Air Force lawyers did not indicate a specific motive for Dezwaan besides some text messages he sent that they say indicated general dissatisfaction with his deployment to the small base.
Then-Staff Sgt. David Dezwaan, left, and Airman 1st Class Alex Nona at Clear Lake, California, in 2016. The EOD technicians participated in Operation: Half-Life, an exercise designed to evaluate a synchronized, multiagency response to a crisis situation. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings.
The blasts, which struck at 1:07 a.m. and 1:09 a.m., injured four, including Dezwaan, and destroyed around $50,000 worth of equipment including a latrine-shower unit and gear used for explosive ordnance disposal.
Dezwaan faces three specifications of an aggravated assault charge, in addition to charges of destruction of government property and reckless endangerment. The Air Force initially indicted Dezwaan with two other charges of unauthorized access to a government computer and failure to protect classified information, but the presiding official at a previous hearing recommended the classified documents charges be dropped, and the Air Force complied.
The decision means Dezwaan can choose to face either a judge or a jury. Dezwaan’s lawyer told Coffee or Die Magazine the forum is still undecided. The court-martial is scheduled for March 6, 2023, and is expected to last until March 16, according to Air Force records.
Phil Cave, one of Dezwaan's civilian lawyers from Cave & Freeburg LLP, spoke with reporters after Dezwaan's Article 32 hearing on Aug. 23, 2022. Cave said he looks forward to presenting Dezwaan's defense. Photo by Lauren Coontz/Coffee or Die Magazine.
At Dezwaan’s Article 32 hearing on Aug. 23 — similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian court — the Air Force presented a case that hinged heavily on what Air Force prosecutor Capt. Taylor Brown called “overwhelming circumstantial evidence." The physical evidence was limited to soil samples, bomb fragments, and metal shavings.
Investigators homed in on Dezwaan because of his position as the explosive ordnance disposal team leader with a knowledge and understanding of the explosives that were suspected of being used in the detonation, as well as the opportunity to set them. If convicted, Dezwaan faces over 10 years in prison.
According to the Hill Air Force Base court docket, Dezwaan’s general court-martial trial will be presided over by military judge Col. Matthew P. Stoffel with an arraignment on Oct. 11. At this hearing, Dezwaan’s head defense attorney, Philip Cave, plans to present a motion for Dezwaan’s release from jail. Dezwaan has been in pretrial confinement in the Weber County Correctional Facility near Hill Air Force Base, Utah, since June 16, 2022.
Cave told Coffee or Die Magazine, “The referral to court-martial was not unexpected; we look forward to presenting Tech Sgt. Dezwaan’s defense.”
Lauren Coontz is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. Beaches are preferred, but Lauren calls the Rocky Mountains of Utah home. You can usually find her in an art museum, at an archaeology site, or checking out local nightlife like drag shows and cocktail bars (gin is key). A student of history, Lauren is an Army veteran who worked all over the world and loves to travel to see the old stuff the history books only give a sentence to. She likes medium roast coffee and sometimes, like a sinner, adds sweet cream to it.
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