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Soldier from Rocky Point sentenced in N.C. manslaughter case

A soldier from Rocky Point has been given a 2-year prison sentence in North Carolina after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a fellow Fort Bragg paratrooper.

The Fayetteville Observer reported that Sgt. Justin A. Boyle also was convicted of conspiracy in the July 2008 death of Pfc. Luke Brown of Fredericksburg, Va., whose family told the jury they have forgiven Boyle and asked that he not be punished.

Boyle is one of seven soldiers accused of accidentally killing an intoxicated Brown when trying to subdue him to get him home. Three others have taken plea deals.

The jury deliberated two hours Monday before sentencing Boyle to a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all pay and a bad-conduct discharge, in addition to 2 years' confinement. Boyle was found not guilty of communicating a threat.

Boyle, who had deployed four times since joining the Army after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made an emotional statement to the jury after the guilty verdict.

"What I've gone through matters nothing to how much I miss my friend," said Boyle, 28. "He was a good kid. I didn't want to hurt him. I was trying to keep him safe. . . . I loved that kid, and I'm going to miss that kid for the rest of my life."

Prosecutors said Boyle twice choked Brown until he was unconscious and fatally injured him. Defense lawyers said Brown's death was a freak accident and that Boyle and the others were following the buddy system to never leave a man behind.

Brown's sister, Michelle, asked the jury to be lenient.

"All of us firmly believe that Sgt. Boyle and the other men were only trying to help Luke that night," she said. "It is not our wish for Sgt. Boyle to go to jail or to be kicked out of the Army. I don't think this man should be punished."

On the night he died, Brown had run from a bar in Fayetteville into nearby woods. Boyle and the other men from their 82nd Airborne Division intelligence unit chased after Brown to return him to his Fort Bragg barracks.

According to testimony during Boyle's trial, Brown choked one of the men before the others eventually punched, kicked, choked and handcuffed Brown to get him into a vehicle.

More than 20 people testified during the trial last week. The jury heard closing arguments Monday morning.

"Brown's actions may have invited help, but they certainly did not give Sgt. Boyle license to choke that soldier, to choke that soldier to death," said Capt. Richard Gallagher, the lead prosecutor. "Sgt. Boyle crossed the line out there. He went too far."

Boyle's lawyer, Anita Gorecki, said the jury's decisions compounded what was already a terrible accident.

"Now it's a tragedy for two families," Gorecki said after the sentence.

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