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Hearing for soldier is postponed


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POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

The preliminary hearing for a 31-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier charged with killing a civilian contractor in Iraq nearly three months ago has been postponed pending the outcome of a mental evaluation.

Spc. Beyshee Velez — assigned to the 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery — is accused of shooting Lucas “;Trent”; Vinson with an M-4 carbine on Sept. 13.

His Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing, was supposed to be held Tuesday in a Wheeler Army Airfield courtroom.

However, an Army spokesman said the hearing is delayed until possibly January pending the outcome of a competency evaluation requested by Col. Walter Piatte, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Velez has been confined to the Ford Island brig.

He is charged with two counts of murder, one count of trying to elude Air Force security forces at Contingency Operating Base Speicher and three counts of assault.

After hearing all the testimony presented at Velez's Article 32 hearing, Lt. Col. Payton Sims, the presiding officer, will send his recommendation to Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, who will determine whether a court-martial will be convened.

A murder conviction by court-martial could result in life imprisonment and dishonorable discharge for Velez.

Vinson, 27, had been working for the Houston-based KBR, formerly Kellogg Brown and Root, since 2003.

Vinson's family was told by Army officials that he was shot three times after picking up a soldier who flagged down his vehicle at the Army base near Tikrit, about 105 miles north of Baghdad. A KBR manager said the shooting occurred at 8:30 a.m. near the project manager's house.