No court-martial for pilot accused in accidental bombing of Canadians - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

No court-martial for pilot accused in accidental bombing of Canadians

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A U.S. fighter pilot who mistakenly dropped a bomb that killed four Canadians in Afghanistan will not be court-martialed, military officials said.

Maj. Harry Schmidt, 37, will face four dereliction-of-duty charges in a nonjudicial forum, beginning next week. The charges will be dismissed in court, the Air Force announced Thursday.

Schmidt could be punished with 30 days confinement or loss of one month's pay, about $5,600, Air Force spokeswoman Col. Alvina Mitchell said.

A member of the Illinois Air National Guard, Schmidt originally was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault and faced up to 64 years in prison. Military officials recommended against a court-martial on those charges last June, offering nonjudicial punishment instead.

Schmidt turned down the offer, saying he wanted to clear his name in a court-martial.

Schmidt's lawyer, Charles W. Gittins, said the Air Force has agreed to allow his client to remain employed with the Illinois Air National Guard, but not as a pilot.

Gittins said Schmidt did not want to fly for the Air Force anymore because he believes he has been ``second guessed in a combat situation by people sitting back in the air-conditioned comfort of the Pentagon.''

Schmidt was charged for dropping the 500-pound, laser-guided bomb on April 17, 2002, near Kandahar, killing four and wounding eight Canadian soldiers who were conducting live-fire exercises. The victims were the first Canadians to die in combat since the Korean War.

Schmidt later said he released the bomb because he mistook the Canadians' gunfire for an attack from Taliban soldiers. A military investigation found Schmidt should have flown out of the area.

The case against Schmidt and his mission commander, Maj. William Umbach, has been closely watched in Canada, where many were outraged by the bombing and the two days it took President Bush to publicly apologize.

The mother of one of the Canadians killed said Thursday she was ``very sad'' to learn that Schmidt would not be court-martialed.

``He should get some penalty because he was at fault. He didn't obey orders. My heart is broken,'' said Agatha Dyer, mother of Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, 25.

Also killed were Sgt. Marc Leger, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith.

Manslaughter and aggravated assault charges against Umbach were dismissed and he was allowed to retire, as he had requested.

Schmidt had transferred to the National Guard in 2000 after a decorated career as a Navy pilot and an instructor at the Navy's ``Top Gun'' fighter pilot school.
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