Army court martial panel finds soldier guilty in boy's death

Posted: Tuesday, August 22, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A military court-martial panel on Monday found Army Sgt. Scott Buber guilty of unpremeditated murder in his stepson's death.

A military panel of four officers and three enlisted men began deliberating Sunday on whether the Fort Wainwright soldier was guilty of striking and killing 4-year-old Ja'lon Jercorious Johnson.

The panel also found Buber guilty of assaulting the boy and making false statements to two Army Criminal Investigation Division agents immediately after the boy was injured.

Buber was expected to be sentenced Tuesday. He could face life in prison.

Defense attorney Chris Zimmerman said in his closing argument that the boy's death was the culmination of head injuries he sustained from a fall downstairs at the family's Fort Wainwright home on Nov. 16, 1999, and an accident as the father and son were playing football two weeks later.

Capt. Richard Rivera argued for the prosecution that Buber injured his stepson. He disputed whether the boy was injured as Buber claimed playing football.

''The accused was stressed out,'' Rivera said. ''He succumbed to all this stress, and he snapped.''

Johnson became unresponsive soon afterward. He died at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage 10 days later of severe blunt head trauma.

''Only abusive force can lead to those injuries,'' Rivera said in his closure.

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