Earlier this year, the Army quietly dropped a murder charge against a Fort Stewart, Georgia-based soldier, Pvt. Jonathan Lauture, who shot and killed a man attempting to help Lauture’s wife escape their abusive marriage in June 2019.
Texas officials had previously declined to prosecute Lauture because of the state’s self-defense laws.
On the military justice side, 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza dismissed the charge on Jan. 11, according to the service’s online docket. The previous commander, now-Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, had ordered the trial.
“The 3rd Infantry Division Commander, in consultation with Army prosecutors, dismissed criminal charges against for Private (PV1) Jonathan Lauture, as the available evidence did not support proceeding further with the court-martial charges,” said division spokesperson Lt. Col. Lindsey Elder in an email to Army Times. “The Army has retained the ability to prefer charges again if new evidence becomes available and that warrants such action.”
Elder also cautioned that all criminal charges “are merely accusations[,] and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Whether Lauture killed a man was never in question, though, according to police records obtained by Army Times through the Texas Public Information Act.
After he shot Jason Lindsay six times, Lauture patiently waited for police to arrive. He was already on his knees with his hands behind his back when police arrived at his El Paso, Texas, apartment on the night of June 17, 2019.
The victim, Jason Lindsay, had entered Lauture’s apartment intending to beat him with his fists, according to police records obtained by Army Times. Lindsay and a group of friends went to Lauture’s apartment that evening after learning the soldier had beaten his wife with a picture frame that night, according to witness statements.
But since Lauture’s wife was safe outside when the shooting happened, and because Texas castle doctrine law allows people to use deadly force on intruders intending to commit crimes, the killing was justified under state law.
Local authorities and a Texas grand jury agreed and declared the killing was “justified homicide.”
Meanwhile, officials Fort Bliss, Texas, were unaware of the domestic violence allegations, and quickly moved Lauture and his wife to Fort Stewart, 1st Armored Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Allie Payne told Army Times last year. The move “was related to the June 2019 off-base shooting.”
The service’s Criminal Investigation Division was not aware of the killing — or earlier allegations of domestic violence — until Fort Stewart CID opened a domestic violence investigation into Lauture in December 2019, Army spokesperson Col. Cathy Wilkinson told Army Times last year. An Army Times investigation found that was due to insufficient information sharing practices between the El Paso Police Department and Fort Bliss CID.
Court records show Lauture pled guilty in July 2020 to a slew of domestic violence-related charges that took place between March 2019 and March 2020. He was sentenced to more than two years’ confinement, demotion to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge.
The Army, though, decided to pursue a separate murder court-martial against Lauture. The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which applies to active duty troops no matter where they are, does not have strong self-defense protections compared to Texas, according to military law expert Eugene Fidell.
Army Times reported Lauture’s pending murder court-martial in July 2021, at which time the trial was tentatively scheduled to begin in October.
But in August 2021, Fort Stewart officials decided to postpone the trial until March 2022. At the time, division spokesperson Elder attributed the delay to “consideration of the complexity of the case and resource availability.”
“To ensure a fair process for the parties, the court-martial was rescheduled for March 2022,” Elder said.
The case seemingly never made it together, though, and Costanza ordered the charge dismissed. Elder’s statement did not offer any detail on why the “available evidence did not support” going to trial.
Army Times was unable to reach Lauture, Lauture’s ex-wife, Lindsay’s family or the case’s witnesses through social media or contact information listed in police records.
Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the Army. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Before journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.
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