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Soldier found guilty of desertion, sentenced
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Spc. Merlyn Seeley, accused of departing the Army without leave eight years ago, has been found guilty of two counts of desertion terminated by apprehension after a two-day court-martial at Fort Stewart.
He was sentenced to about three years and one month, reduction in grade to E1, forfeiture of pay and benefits, and dishonorable discharge. The maximum penalty is six years in jail.
Now that the sentence is imposed, the convening authority, Garrison Commander Col. Todd Buchs  can decide if it should be reduced.
Seeley has 30 days to present evidence that might persuade Buchs that he deserves a lighter sentence.
It took the panel of three non-commissioned officers and three officers about an hour and a half to reach the verdict Tuesday.
Seeley maintained throughout the trial that he had proper authorization to leave the Army in an early-out program. But prosecutors said there was no evidence Seeley ever had such authorization and said instead he hid from federal authorities after leaving Fort Stewart.
Prosecutors had asked the panel to sentence Seeley to five years in a military prison, dishonorable discharge and a demotion of the rank of E-1, the lowest non-commissioned rank.
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