Cops: Iraq-Bound Soldier Hires Hitman To Shoot Him
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bronx Man Admits He'd Rather Go To Prison Than Back To Iraq
WCBS-TV | July 14, 2007
(CBS) 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.
Now, 20-year-old Jonathan Aponte is under fire at home in the Bronx for his decision that may send him to prison.
"There are some people mentally that can handle it. There are some people who just can't. You need to know when to say enough is enough," Aponte told CBS 2 HD exclusively Friday.
For Aponte, that day was Monday, the very day he was supposed to go back for another tour of duty to serve ten months on the front lines. He admits to CBS 2, however, that he couldn't face another tour of drama and devastation.
"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 proof, they say, is the bullet wound he helped give himself after feelings he described as "desperate."
Aponte's lawyer wouldn't let him talk about the event that's brought criminal charges, but a statement of his in court records bring his confession to light:
"I jokingly said that I should get shot in the leg ... so that it can buy me some extra time away from Iraq," he said.
After his new wife text messaged a hitman who would do the job, Aponte admits, "I asked him what was a good price. He told me $500 would be fine."
The shooting was set to happen under a bridge on Gunhill Road on the very day of the redeployment.
"I decided I wasn't going to go back one way or another," he said.
When Aponte arrived at the appointed time, he smoked a cigarette then closed his eyes because he didn't want to see it coming, he told police. The next thing he knew, he had a gunshot wound to his right knee.
"He was asking for help, but we didn't know what he was asking for. We didn't understand," said Gwen Aponte, his mother.
Now Aponte's mother, father, and lawyer all say a doctor diagnosed him with post traumatic stress disorder, and that's why he should be counseled, not incarcerated.
"If he's ill, he needs to get help," said Martin Goldberg, Aponte's lawyer. "He is as much a casualty of the war as someone struck by a bullet."
Aponte says the pain and potential of prison are a better option than another dose of duty. "There are risks in prison, but as far as getting shot at everyday, I think it's better," he said. "Mentally, I can't do it anymore. I can't handle it anymore."
Both Aponte and his wife are facing charges of conspiracy and filing a false report. The soldier's lawyer says the military will soon evaluate his client and either say he's fit for duty and send him back to Iraq, provide counseling if needed and then send him back, or give him some kind of discharge.
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