Prev | List | Random | Next
Jonathan Aponte comes home
The door to the doughnut shop swung open. For a moment, the tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing, stood with the windy rain of Friday afternoon at his back. A wave of coffee and doughnut humidity slapped him in the face.But this "tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing" wasn't returning from Iraq - he was home from an eight-month stay in Rikers Island prison.
His eyes swept across the shop. Then he spotted the older man seated at a table over a cup of decaf. Their eyes locked. The prodigal son had come home. The father rose. They hugged, with lots of thumping on the back instead of words.
He had been to Iraq. But while home on leave last year he decided he didn't want to go back...
Home on leave for 10 days last year, Mr. Aponte entered into a marriage of extremely short duration with a young woman. The new bride either volunteered or was assigned to hire a gunman to shoot her new husband, carefully. She negotiated via text messages. Right after Mr. Aponte arrived in the hospital with his wounded leg and flimsy yarn about a mysterious assailant, the scheme collapsed, followed immediately by the marriage.But as Aponte and his lawyer prepared his defense the anti-war left found a new hero. His publicity campaign was launched on CBS TV in New York
The death and destruction of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq seems to have become so rampant to one local soldier that he actually staged an attack on himself -- allegedly hiring a hitman to non-fatally shoot him -- so he wouldn't be sent back for another tour of duty.His story fit the Iraq war narrative so popular among the easily swayed (see here here here...). While easily verifiable if true, none would question his claims of atrocities, suicides, PTSD, mortal combat against pregnant women and eight year olds with machine guns, and desperate efforts to avoid returning to the complete American defeat in Iraq. And each mainstream news report of his story would reinforce his claims with lead paragraphs like the one above, or this one from the New York Daily News:
"Bullets being shot at me, almost being hit, with car bombs, burning flesh," Aponte recalls of his first tour. Now the soldier, his mother, and lawyer all say his plot for pain proves he's a victim of post traumatic stress disorder caused by the horrific memories of battle.
The war in Iraq was such hell for Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte he decided he'd never go back again - no matter what.TV talk show host Star Jones even delayed an appearance by Grey's Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington (who had lost his job and made headlines by allegedly referring to a gay fellow actor as a "faggot") to interview him:
"I have nightmares all the time. I hear people screaming, gunshots, explosions, and I can smell burning flesh in my dreams," the 20-year-old told the Daily News yesterday as he fought back tears.
Rather than endure another tour of trauma, authorities say, Aponte hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he could stay home.
"I was desperate to stay home and at the end of my rope," Aponte said. "I couldn't deal with being in Iraq anymore. Would I risk going to prison? As far as being shot at, I think it's better."
Aponte believes the U.S. is losing the war and urged President Bush to bring "everyone back ASAP."
He said victory was virtually impossible when "we don't know who the enemy is. In Iraq, the enemy is dressed in street clothes, or they're pregnant ladies and sometimes even 8-year-olds with machine guns."
The ever-present death and destruction, he said, takes its toll on all soldiers.
On his first day of combat Aponte said a female sergeant killed herself in the middle of chow hall, an image he can't get out of his mind.
"She locked, loaded and shot herself in the head," he recalled. "I also saw people being shot and being blown up. I was shot at more than once by Iraqi insurgents. Being in Iraq was like something out of a movie. I was horrified to be there."
On Tuesday, however, Jones called an audible -- delaying part two of Washington to spend more time with an Iraq war vet, Jonathan Aponte, who paid to have himself shot to avoid returning to duty. Aponte’s plight is depressing and poignant, but Jones couldn’t think of much more to say other than repeatedly asking him how he felt about it.We already know how he felt about it. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Grand Jury investigating the shooting declined to indict Aponte:
His wife, Alexandra Gonzalez, and hit man Felix Padilla, who took $500 to shoot Aponte in the leg while he was home on leave in July, were indicted on assault charges.More details:
The Bronx grand jury wouldn't indict Aponte, who won over the panelists with his tearful testimony.
The Bronx soldier accused of hiring a hit man to shoot him so he wouldn't have to return to active duty will be spared felony charges, but his wife and the gunman have been indicted by a grand jury, the Daily News has learned.
"I was hoping for the best, but preparing myself for the worst," Aponte, 21, told The News yesterday. "I am so happy that I was not indicted. I went into the grand jury and told the truth, and I think they had sympathy for me.
"I told the grand jury I just couldn't go back to Iraq after what I had experienced," he added. "I love my country and I wanted to serve, but I wasn't prepared to fight in the war or handle what I saw."
Aponte's mother, Gwen, said she is thankful and knows her son still has a long road in front of him.
"I am ecstatic and grateful that the people of New York had compassion for my son," said Gwen Aponte. "They understood his plight. My son is not well ... he is not the same boy I sent to the Army."
There was just one little catch. Aponte was still scheduled to appear in court for falsely reporting the incident, a misdemeanor charge. But before that trial, Aponte returned to Ft Hood. Reporters accompanied him - perhaps seeking a story of a hero's welcome. But shockingly, given that they had supposedly gone through the same mind-bending horrors Aponte had, the New York Daily News reported that Aponte wasn't greeted by a marching band and a cheering throng of fellow
Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte doesn't know yet if he'll be punished by his superiors, but he's already taking lumps from his peers.That response might be because they knew something the many reporters supporting Aponte did not (or chose not) to report.
Since returning to his base, the 20-year-old private has felt the scorn of other soldiers - through stares and words - who are appalled that he hired someone to shoot him in the leg to avoid returning to Iraq.
"I wouldn't want him next to me in combat - not a chicken like that," said Dee Xiong, 22, an infantryman set to redeploy in December after serving 10 months in Iraq.
"What he did was wrong," said a 20-year-old Army mechanic who served a year in Iraq. "You know what you sign up for and you just have to finish it out."
Here's a myspace milblog response to Aponte from before the Grand Jury decision:
I am a soldier currently deployed in Iraq. I was sent a copy of a story fox news morning show did on a "soldier" named Jonathan Aponte. Apparently Jonathan hired someone to shoot him in the leg to avoid returning to Iraq because he couldn't handle all the ..."chaos, blood and bombs.." I happen to know who this soldier is and I know first hand that his story of the horror he supposedly witnessed is a bald-faced LIE. Spc Aponte is in my Unit here in Iraq.By the time of his misdemeanor trial, New York prosecutors had some "new" information...
This soldier is a fueler for an aviation unit stationed at a large secure base in Iraq, and the only time he left this FOB (forward operating base) is when he got on a helicopter to catch a flight to the US via Kuwait. His job here consists of driving a fuel truck up and down the flight line pumping gas. He possibly worked up to 8 hours a day, but more than likely it was closer to 5 hours. The closest he came to seeing any combat action was playing video games on his XBox in his air conditioned room.
As for him supposedly seeing a female Sergeant First Class commit suicide in the middle of the "chow hall" that is just laughable. It never happened. He never went door to door clearing houses. He never witnessed body parts or dead people. He is just an irresponsible kid who decided he didn't like the Army. He is a phenomenal disgrace to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. He mocks the hard work and 12 to 15 hour days that majority of the soldiers here do without complaint. He demeans the Infantry troops that actually do go door to door clearing houses and regularly come into contact with enemy fire and IED's. He is a punk.
That any national media outlet would run this story without even bothering to verify a single allegation that this guy made makes me sick to my stomach. They went through the trouble of hiring an "expert" on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) on the show, but they never even bothered to call the guys unit and verify that there was a chance he could be lying. How credible can a person be, who lied to the police about hiring someone to shoot him.
Assistant District Attorney James P. Cudden told the court that investigators had determined that Private Aponte lied to a grand jury about his experiences in Iraq. Private Aponte did not witness a soldier’s suicide, as he claimed, and was not under fire in combat, Mr. Cudden said, adding that Private Aponte was a supply clerk on a military base and was never involved in any hostilities.Why that wasn't available to the Grand Jury (or whether it would alter the feelings of a random group of New Yorkers) is anyone's guess.
A Bronx soldier who hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he wouldn't have to go back to Iraq was sentenced to a year in jail yesterday after admitting he lied about being in combat and witnessing atrocities.For what it's worth, Aponte's lawyer was quick to claim that Aponte's first response to being caught in a lie regarding his shooting was actually true, and that his admission that it was actually another lie was the real lie, told to spare his family further pain:
For months, Jonathan Aponte detailed the horrors he'd seen in combat, talking of the smell of burning flesh, the sound of car bombs and the horror of "being shot at every day" by insurgents.
The 20-year-old's story garnered him sympathy nationwide and he was invited on the Star Jones show to pour out his heart.
In a stunning reversal, prosecutors said yesterday it was all made up: Aponte worked in a warehouse during his Iraq tour and never saw combat.
"Mr. Aponte's testimony that he saw a female sergeant commit suicide less than 50 feet away from him was not true," Bronx Assistant District Attorney James Cudden said.
"Stories about people dying in front of his eyes were not true. Mr. Aponte worked in a warehouse that stocked helicopters. He did not go to combat."
Faced with potential felony perjury charges, Aponte pleaded guilty in Bronx Criminal Court to a misdemeanor of false reporting.
Aponte had said he told them, "I have nightmares all the time. I hear people screaming, gunshots, explosions, and I can smell burning flesh in my dreams."
Aponte's lawyer Marty Goldberg said his client maintains that he told the truth, but decided to cop the plea to avoid putting his family through any more agony.Sadly, no reporters bothered to verify any of the claims - which should have been fairly easy given that whatever Aponte did in Iraq, he didn't do it alone. (Or if they did verify, they chose not to report their discoveries.)
"It's a sad story," Goldberg said. "The prosecution said he lied, but that's their opinion. He didn't believe it was in his best interest to go to trial.
Which brings us back to the present. Aponte is home, and after his eight month stay in prison (we'll assume he got time off from his year for good behavior) the NY Times explains that he only joined to get an education:
In the late winter of 2004, Mr. Aponte was hanging around outside a friend’s store on Westchester Square in the Bronx. “This guy in uniform came up to me and said, ‘You look like you’re in decent shape,’ ” Mr. Aponte said. “I told him, ‘Yeah, I do my pushups now and then.’ He said, ‘You ought to think about the military.’ ”And concludes the story with an interesting spin:
Mr. Aponte had not finished high school but he had earned a general equivalency diploma, and he worked occasionally in a barbershop.
For now, Mr. Aponte appears to be one of the very few people in America — if not the only one — to go to jail for lying about the Iraq war, a conflict nurtured in the deceptions and errors of people in positions of great responsibility.Actually, the story isn't complete. Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Padilla are still awaiting trial on charges of felony assault.
Update: Somewhat related discussions at MilBlogs - here and here (scroll a bit - multiple entries at the second link), as yet another spinner of "atrocity" tales rears his ugly little head (and makes headlines for doing so).
It's absolutely maddening to me how nobody (authorities nor reporters) checks any story as long as it fits the agenda.Posted by MissBirdlegs in AL at May 17, 2008 05:51 PM
Greyhawk, thanks for your excellent exposition of the dishonorable actions and words of phony soldier Jonathan Aponte, whose name can be added to the thousands of other men who faked war stories to obtain favors, status, enrichment, or (worse) injury to America.
(Among the vilest name on that list is John F. Kerry. He finagled three purple hearts for superficial or minor wounds to escape his Vietnam assignment early; then lead the anti-war movement back at home while still on active duty; then, under oath before Congress, falsly testified that the US military committed war crimes in Vietnam in testimony; and then consulted in Paris with communist North Vietnam to procure South Vietnam’s defeat.)Posted by Brian at May 17, 2008 06:35 PM
For now, Mr. Aponte appears to be one of the very few people in America — if not the only one — to go to jail for lying about the Iraq war
Absolutely true! Otherwise we'd have seen countless so-called "journalists" already wearing prison orange! Thanks, Greyhawk, for exposing more of the left's underbelly. God bless you and Mrs. Greyhawk.Posted by DagneyT at May 17, 2008 09:36 PM
Brian, thanks for reminding me of the most infamous liar of all; John F'ing sKerry! He should be in prison as a traitor, not in Congress!Posted by DagneyT at May 17, 2008 09:38 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(4) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)