Court Watch - POSTED: 2008/11/20 13:17
A jury acquitted a former Fort Carson soldier of first-degree murder in the slaying of a fellow Iraq war veteran but convicted him of a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder.
Louis Bressler, 25, was convicted Wednesday in connection with the Dec. 1 death of Kevin Shields. He could be sentenced to as many as 24 years in prison and is to stand trial next month in the slaying of another soldier.
Jurors acquitted Bressler of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder in furtherance of a felony and aggravated robbery.
Bressler's lawyer argued that no physical evidence linked him to Shields' slaying and that two co-defendants, also Iraq war vets, conspired to frame him. The co-defendants have reached plea agreements in Shields' slaying and are serving prison terms.
Bressler is one of at least five Fort Carson soldiers who served in Iraq with the 4th Brigade Combat Team and who later were accused of various slayings at home over the past 15 months. A sixth team veteran faces attempted murder charges. An Army task force is investigating whether there are any common factors in the slayings.
Prosecutors said Bressler killed Shields because Shields knew too much about robberies that Bressler and fellow veterans Bruce Bastien Jr. and Kenneth Eastridge planned to commit. They also said Shields had beaten Bressler in a fight before the slaying. All four had been drinking heavily.
Shields' family said he was out celebrating both his birthday and news that his wife was pregnant with their second child.
The prosecution's case suffered a blow when co-defendant Bastien refused to testify against Bressler, in violation of his plea agreement. El Paso County District Judge Theresa Cisneros refused a request by Deputy District Attorney Jack Roth that Bastien be compelled to testify.