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Major plea deal debate in Navy medic death probe case

Posted at 6:31 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 21:31:09-05

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (KGTV) - In a move that the prosecutors said they had never seen before, a plea agreement was halted this week inside a courthouse on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, located northeast of San Diego.

“We were just disgusted with a plea agreement that we did not agree upon,” said Jose De Leon, the father of fallen corpsman HM3 Michael Vincent De Leon.

Jose De Leon and wife Sandra De Leon said that last week they fought to stop the plea deal for HM1 Ryan Dini, the most senior of the four corpsmen who are charged in connection with the shooting death of HM3 De Leon. The De Leons told ABC 10News that they believed that the deal was too lenient.

“If [Dini] would have stood up in the beginning and stopped these guys from what they were doing, we wouldn't be here right now,” said Sandra.

The base previously stated that HM1 Dini was planning to plead guilty to "dereliction of duty for failing to enforce the weapons safety rules".

In February, ABC 10News shared Snapchat video that the De Leons said their son had posted about an hour before he was shot to death during a going-away party with fellow corpsmen at one of the houses on the base.

The prosecution has said that the corpsmen were drinking and dry-firing guns before a fatal round was fired.

In a bombshell move last Thursday, a commanding officer on the base withdrew from HM1 Dini's pre-trial agreement, stating that she "agreed to do [so] in support of the family and our fallen shipmate". She reportedly made her decision after the De Leons had expressed their concerns.

On Monday, the defense argued that the deal should move forward, but after hours of debate and deliberation, the judge pushed the decision back to April.

The move further delays any closure for the family and HM3 De Leon’s best friend, Kevin Fish. He told ABC 10News on Monday, “They’re not a step closer today than they were a year and a half ago for seeing justice for their son that they had to bury [and] that I said a prayer over [and] that I watched go into the dirt.”

23-year-old corpsman HM3 Mason Williams also stood before the judge on Monday for his arraignment on charges related to the death, including making a "false official statement".

Last month, Williams’ attorney told ABC 10News that NCIS manipulated his client to state that he was the one who had the gun in his hand when it went off. “It was physically impossible for that to have happened based on where everyone was sitting and the trajectory of the shots that were fired,” said attorney Phillip Stackhouse.

Corpsmen Sterling Wold and Jesse Humes have also been charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.