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Originally published Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 7:53 PM

Key witness in Lewis-McChord war-crimes trial back in isolation cell

Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, a prison inmate and key witness for Army attorneys prosecuting war crimes, says he has been put in an isolation cell after an encounter with another inmate at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord correctional facility.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, a prison inmate and key prosecution witness in an Army war-crimes case, says he has been confined to a cell after an encounter with another inmate at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord correctional facility.

The July 2 incident involved Morlock and Spc. Ronald Washington, an inmate who last month made a sworn statement alleging that Morlock admitted to lying about the involvement of two other soldiers in the murders of unarmed Afghans.

Washington could be called as a witness in future trials.

Morlock, who was just released June 13 from isolation into a barracks-like cell shared with about 40 other prisoners, says Washington's affidavit is false. He says he was distressed to hear Washington discussing the case with other inmates in the mess hall.

"I went up to him, and said I would appreciate you not talking about my case," Morlock said in an interview with The Seattle Times this week.

Washington then started yelling, which, Morlock said, prompted him to back off.

Morlock says he was accused of disrespect and other misconduct and has been ordered to serve 30 days in a confinement cell. He's allowed out one hour a day.

An Army spokesman confirmed that Morlock has been removed from the general prison population but declined further comment.

Morlock has confessed to killing three unarmed Afghans in January, February and May of 2010 while deployed with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In a plea deal earlier this year, Morlock received a 24-year sentence and agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution in the trials of four other soldiers accused of involvement in the slayings.

Those trials are scheduled for September.

In a series of pretrial hearings, defense attorneys have repeatedly challenged his testimony and tried to undercut his credibility.

Washington's affidavit has become part of that effort. Last month, the affidavit was introduced by a defense attorney representing Spc. Michael Wagnon, who Morlock says participated in the February killing.

In his affidavit, Washington recounts a cellblock conversation in May in which Morlock said he'd lied about the involvement of Wagnon and Pfc. Andrew Holmes to get a better deal.

Morlock told The Seattle Times he only briefly talked to Washington about the length of his sentence and made no comments about his testimony.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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