ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A judge refused Tuesday to toss a manslaughter charge against an Alaska-based soldier accused of engaging a fellow soldier in a deadly game of Russian roulette after the two friends went on a 36-hour drinking binge while playing with guns.
Sgt. Michael McCloskey, 26, of Beverly, N.J., died in March 2011 after shooting himself in the stomach with a high-powered revolver. Prosecutors said his friend Jacob Brouch, 27, handed him the gun and a bullet in the bathroom of Brouch's home in Eagle River, just north of Anchorage.
With the case poised to go to the jury Wednesday, lawyer Dunnington Babb asked Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller to throw out the manslaughter charge. Babb said there was no testimony presented at trial that Brouch actually asked his friend to play Russian roulette.
The judge refused, saying it was up to the jury to decide if Brouch acted recklessly when he handed his friend the weapon and the bullet after the two drank cases of beer and did shots of liquor while playing with guns and taking gangster-type photos, some with the two aiming guns at each other's head.
"It is a jury question in my opinion," Miller said. "I think most people would think it is reckless."
Brouch previously told police he was playing Russian roulette in a back bedroom of the home while McCloskey watched. Brouch said he could see the bottom of the single bullet in the cylinder, so he knew he was safe, something he later told McCloskey, according to the charging documents.
Prosecutors contend that Brouch enticed McCloskey into playing Russian roulette even though he told his friend he hated the game.
Anchorage District Attorney Adrienne Bachman acknowledged that prosecutors can't say exactly when over the 36 hours that McCloskey decided to play Russian roulette. But she said one thing is certain.
"All we know is he got to that point," she said.