Marine Suspected in SE DC Murder Served with Discharge Papers Prior to Hearing

Today, as he waited for his hearing on a charge of second-degree murder, Marine Michael Poth was served with discharge papers; the U.S. Marine Corps saying that he had behaved less than honorably.

Just hours later, clad in an orange jumpsuit, he was ordered held on the murder charge. Judge Ronna Beck found substantial probability that Poth stabbed his brother-in-arms, Philip Bushong, near the Marine Barracks in April.

The prosecuting attorney, Michael Liebman, said the discharge was recommended before Poth was presented with the charge of second-degree murder while armed and that it was because Poth, 20, had allegedly drank illegally, tested positive for synthetic marijuana, and talked back to officers.

Liebman showed the court videos of Poth just before Bushong was killed. The videos, from nearby surveillance cameras, showed Poth waving a knife in the air and kicking over a restaurant advertisement. A witness told police that that night Poth also addressed a gay man with a homophobic slur. Another witness said they heard Poth say, “I’m gonna stab somebody. I’m gonna cut their lungs out.”

Poth’s defense attorney didn’t deny at the hearing Wednesday that Poth could have fatally stabbed Bushong.

Instead, David Benowitz argued, Poth was acting in self defense.

Benowitz said Bushong initiated a fistfight, which led to the stabbing. Benowitz pointed back to the surveillance tapes provided by the government, saying that on the tape, he sees Poth getting up after appearing to fall backwards, as if struck, before the stabbing took place.

Beck rejected the self defense argument, saying that even if Bushong initiated a fistfight with Poth, wielding a knife was a disproportionate response. She ordered Poth held on the charge while the case goes to Grand Jury.

Poth is next expected in court for a status hearing July 13.

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