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Military judge to drop charges in cable car accident

Crash site

March 24, 1999
Web posted at: 7:36 PM EST (0036 GMT)

CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina (CNN) -- Sources tell CNN that a military judge may drop charges against a Marine navigator involved in a cable car accident that killed 20 people in a northern Italian ski resort.

Col. Alvin Keller, the judge in the case, has agreed to review charges of obstruction of justice against Capt. Joseph Schweitzer because Keller believes the charges against Schweitzer may not be applicable,according to sources.

Schweitzer was the navigator during an accident in which a E-A Prowler jet sliced a a ski cable gondola after taking off from the Aviano NATO air base.

Captain Richard Ashby, who was flying with Schweitzer, was acquitted of all charges, including manslaughter.

During his trial, Ashby said that Shweitzer shot a video tape of the flight. The tape disappeared, which led to the charges of obstruction of justice.

Ashby testified during his trial that Schweitzer asked for the tape when they landed, but later told him it was gone.

The sources say the judge will either drop charges or proceed with the trial under the current charges, if they are found to be applicable.

Examples of obstruction of justice, according to military law, include "wrongly influencing, intimidating, impeding or injuring a witness."

The offense could lead to dishonorable discharge.

A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler cut the lift cable near Cavalese in the Italian Alps, sending a gondola plunging nearly 357 feet on Feb. 3, 1998. All 20 people inside the gondola were killed.

Most serious charges dropped against Marine cable car navigator
March 15, 1999
Italian leader may press Clinton over cable car liability
March 5, 1999
Europeans 'shocked' at U.S. pilot's acquittal
March 4, 1999
Trial of Marine pilot may go to jury today
March 3, 1999
Jury in ski-lift trial could get case Wednesday
March 2, 1999
Defense rests in Marine cable car court-martial
March 1, 1999

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