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Iraq shooting suspect working on plea deal


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POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

A 33-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier charged with shooting and killing a fellow soldier in Iraq has waived his preliminary hearing and is working on a plea agreement with Army prosecutors, an Army spokeswoman said.

Sgt. Miguel A. Vegaquinones, 33, of Havelock, N.C., was supposed to have gone before an Article 32 hearing—the military's equivalent of a grand jury—yesterday at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, according to Maj. Catherine Wilkinson, 3rd Brigade Combat Team spokeswoman. He is accused of involuntary manslaughter and making a false official statement in connection with the death of Pfc. Sean McCune on Jan. 11 in Samarra, located 60 miles north of Baghdad.

But Vegaquinones waived his appearance before the hearing, which was supposed to be conducted by Maj. Paul Romagnoli, and entered plea negotiations, Wilkinson said.

He was scheduled to face a court-martial July 11.

McCune died after allegedly being shot by Vegaquinones, who was cleaning his weapon. The two soldiers, both assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, had just completed guard duty in Samarra. Vegaquinones, who is also a veteran Marine, is temporarily attached to the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Company pending the outcome of the proceedings.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, while making a false official statement can bring a sentence of up to five years, Wilkinson said.