RALEIGH, N.C. – When Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez appears in court, it likely will take less than an hour for a military judge to complete the arraignment of the only soldier known to be charged with "fragging" — or killing his superior officer — during the Iraq war.
The brevity of the hearing does not matter to the widows of Capt. Phillip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis Allen. They planned to be at North Carolina's Fort Bragg on Friday, having driven hundreds of miles to face Martinez.
"My husband started the process of holding Martinez accountable for his actions and I'm going to finish it for him," Barbara Allen said. "Every time he walks into a courtroom, he needs to walk past me."
Esposito, 30, of Suffern, N.Y., was Martinez's company commander in the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard. Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa., was the company's operations officer.
Allen said her husband was working with Esposito to stop black market sales of military equipment when the men were wounded on June 7, 2005, by grenades and a mine that exploded in Esposito's room at one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. The men died the next day at a base near Tikrit.
An Army captain testified at a hearing last year in Kuwait that Martinez, 39, of Troy, N.Y., twice told him he hated Esposito and was going to "frag" him, using the Vietnam War term that refers to a soldier killing a superior.
Martinez faces a possible death sentence if found guilty of premeditated murder.
He is also charged with illegally giving government printers to an Iraqi, who has testified that he sold them for about $800, and failing to obey orders prohibiting possession of a private firearm, alcohol and explosives.
"It's not forgotten," said Barbara Allen, who is raising the couple's four young sons. "I need to see for myself that things are being done."
Siobhan Esposito, who has a 3-year-old daughter, said she wants to attend the hearing to "demand our leaders to require higher standards for those that are allowed to wear the uniform because they represent who we are as a country."
The case is the only known incident of "fragging" during the war in Iraq, said Col. Billy Buckner, a spokesman for the Army's 18th Airborne Corps.
There has been at least one other case of a soldier killing fellow Americans during the war. Last year, a jury at Fort Bragg sentenced 101st Airborne Division Sgt. Hasan Akbar to death for killing two officers and wounding 14 soldiers in a March 2003 attack during which he threw grenades into troop tents and fired on soldiers.
Akbar, the first soldier tried for killing another soldier in wartime since the Vietnam era, said he was upset that American troops would kill fellow Muslims.
Military lawyers declined to comment on the Martinez case, as did officials with the New York National Guard. No one answered at a telephone listing for Martinez.
"I feel as a country we cannot be indifferent to what happened," Siobhan Esposito said. "We need to make sure that this horrific crime never ever happens again."