Army paratrooper Robert Nicoson acquitted after Syria gunfight allegations

An 82nd Airborne Division soldier was totally acquitted Friday evening during a court-martial after facing a series of charges stemming from a deadly gunfight in Syria in 2020.

“He was fully acquitted of all the allegations,” said Phillip Stackhouse, the civilian defense attorney representing Sgt. 1st Class Robert Nicoson, in a statement to the Army Times.

“Sergeant First Class Nicoson, and his family, continue to be humbled and thankful to those that have supported him and stood by his side,” he continued, after the military hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Nicoson was initially charged with two counts of failure to obey an order, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of communicating threats, and three counts of obstructing justice for his role in a deadly firefight that took place Aug. 17, 2020, near the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli.

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The firefight started when Nicoson’s patrol sought passage through a pro-regime checkpoint and was initially blocked from doing so. After a discussion through translators, the U.S. forces were allowed passage before they were met with small arms fire, according to a report by Task & Purpose.

U.S. Army soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost on May 25, 2021, in northeastern Syria. 
(Getty Images)

Nicoson’s unit, the 82nd Airborne Division’s Blackhorse Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, returned fire, killing one Syrian soldier. No U.S. soldiers were injured or killed in the 10-minute incident. 

Onlookers captured the firefight on video, but its start was not recorded.

In the months following the firefight, an Army Civilian Investigation Division inquiry determined Nicoson was at fault.

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On Friday, the jury — composed of two lieutenant colonels and six command sergeants major — cleared Nicoson of any wrongdoing and a motion to clear him of an eighth charge was granted during the evidence phase, according to the report. 

“The trial lasted for a week and over 20 witnesses were called to the stand to provide testimony to a combat experienced panel,” Stackhouse added in an email to Army Times. “After just over 2-hours of deliberations, the panel president delivered the verdict in open court.”

Lt. Col. Brett Lea, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, confirmed the acquittal to the Army Times, but did not otherwise comment on its outcome.

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