Canadian Colonel Court Martialed for Negligent Discharge

Our neighbors to the north appear to take negligent discharges by active duty servicemen very seriously. No matter what their rank may be. “Col. Paul Scagnetti pleaded guilty Tuesday to negligently discharging his rifle — specifically, of ‘conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline’ — during a security exercise in Afghanistan last May.” Scagnetti retired in November after a distinguished 30-year career. He appeared this week as a retired civilian and was fined $2,000 at Tuesday’s court marital proceeding. Col. Scagnetti was stationed in Kabul and the ND happened during a surprise drill…


In May this year, he was in his office with two Afghan interpreters when a security drill unexpectedly sounded.

As Scagnetti readied himself, he squeezed the trigger of his C8 assault rifle and a live round lodged itself in a concrete wall.

“No one was injured but that was only a fortunate consequence. It could have been otherwise,” (presiding military judge, Lt.-Col. J.G.) Perron, said during sentencing.

The article at the link, above, has a highly detailed description of the incident. Col. Scagnetti took immediate responsibility for what happened, securing statements from the two Afghan interpreters and making one of his own.

Prosecutor Capt. J.C. Maguire during the court martial Tuesday commended Scagnetti for launching an investigation immediately, having statements gathered from witnesses and taking full responsibility.

There seems to be a contrast between the way NDs are handled in the Canadian and US armed forces. We’d welcome comments from Armed Intelligentsia members with direct experience in this area. In the mean time, props to the Colonel for his stand-up approach to the incident and here’s wishing him a long and happy retirement.


  1. avatar Martin Albright says:

    I never heard of a ND being punished with a court martial unless someone was injured or killed. From what I saw on my deployments the usual response was either a formal reprimand or, at worst, a field-grade Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment) that resulted in a small fine (forfeiture.) In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing of anybody losing a stripe over an ND though I’m sure that’s happened.

    1. avatar John Baker says:

      Considering that the difference between a ND that results in injury or death and one that doesn’t is pretty much luck I wonder if the Canadians have a point.

      1. avatar Ropingdown says:

        Perhaps, but often the difference between a wounding or not reflects muzzle discipline. There ought to be some acknowledgment of that. Having an ND is a function in large part of the number of administrative loadings/unloadings and drills you have to perform.

      2. avatar Tim McNabb says:

        The Four Rules are a tiered system of safety. Muzzle Discipline Always point the muzzle in a safe direction is a layer of safety if Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot is ignored.

    2. avatar mikeb302000 says:

      NDs are treated much too lightly in the military as well as in the civilian world. I think you guys sympathize with the negligent person and wonder “what if it happened to me,” always in the passive voice, of course.

      You’re only big on personal responsibility when it suits.

  2. avatar Todd94590 says:

    is it just me, or does that photograph of the Colonel seem….. just a bit wrong: not many ribbons? (at least that’s what us enlisted Navy guys called them)

    1. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

      Probably “all, some or none”, just like us.

      1. avatar Todd94590 says:


        could have simply been my rate in the Navy (DS, which has been gone for a number of years), we were always ordered to wear all of our ribbons, and if caught without was a no-no…. at least how I remember it (87-96)

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      The Brits and Commonwealth military forces do not give out been there, done that awards the way we do. You actually have to accomplish something. Most of the ribbons you see on US military personnel are end of tour ribbons that are of little value.

    3. avatar Nicholas says:

      Canadian medals are awarded somewhat less frequently than in some other armed services. It’s not uncommon for field officers and even general officers to have only a few ribbons on their uniforms (the Canadian Forces Decoration, for example, is awarded after 12 years’ service). Here’s the official information on current and past medals and docorations –

    4. avatar Sam Wright says:

      Is this what a military officer is supposed to look like?
      The photo link is from where I found it. I hope to not run afoul of TTAG’s Copyrighted Materials Usage Policy.

    5. avatar Gabba says:

      It speaks to the integrity of their officer corps declining to shamelessly decorate each other or institute frivolous decorations.

      unlike the leadership of some other militaries.

    6. avatar Robert Walsh says:

      That is an old photo of the colonel. He has a few more medals now.

  3. avatar Aaron says:

    Scagnetti? Did this Colonel play a role in a Tarantino film?

    1. avatar matt says:

      Its a Oliver Stone film and a favorite of mine, Natural Born Killers.

      1. avatar Sean says:

        Tarrantino wrote the screenplay however.

  4. avatar Sam Wright says:

    A negligent discharge could happen to almost anyone. By almost anyone, I mean all of you if your name is not Jeff Cooper or Massad Ayoob. I would never admit to having a ND, but I have this “friend” who shot a phone jack off the wall, and it scared him spitless. Court Martial seems a bit harsh for tiny mistake. (It is tiny because no one got hurt)
    The US soldiers and police should be as upfront and honest as Colonel Paul Scagnetti when their guns go off all by themselves.

    1. avatar Todd94590 says:

      agree. his sense of honor & discipline are beyond reproach. He earns my respect immediately from this.

      1. avatar Steve says:

        I agree. He made a mistake, something that anyone can do. He owned up to it, took his punishment without complaint (I assume so, since we didnt hear about any) which is something that very few seem to be able to do.

        I think a 2000$ fine is not unreasonable for a Colonel who has a ND.

    2. avatar Tom says:

      I would gladly share a foxhole in the front lines with this man! He has my respect.

    3. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      I had a “friend” who discharged a vintage .22 rifle while attempting to clear it. Scared the shit out of my “friend”, but “my friend” was following rules two and one, mitigating the damage.

  5. avatar John Fritz says:

    Show me the victim. Show me the property damage.

    Wait, what? Oh, right. There is none. 🙁 Canadian overreacting douchebags. Unless the bird is being screwed for something else he did previously and got away with.

    And what is going on where when you edit your comment the formatting goes all to hell??

    1. avatar Veekay says:

      Wether the incident led to injury/death/damage is totally irrelevant. Those are the fruit of pure coincidence. What caused the potential is what we are looking for.
      If you look at HSE stats, near-misses are documented as well as accidents with consequences.

      And please leave douchebags out of this discussion, as none were involved.

      1. avatar Sam Wright says:

        Veekay, I respectfully disagree with your statement “What caused the potential is what we are looking for.” The potential being a round in the chamber that was not supposed to be there. The other potential being that the safety was not on. (someone with knowledge help me out if I am wrong. I think of a C8 as a Canadian M4 and having a M16 type of safety.) What caused the ND was Col. Scagnetti putting his finger on the trigger. I agree with your sentiment Veekay that they should determine how the round got into the chamber and how the safety was off when the colonel picked up the weapon.

        1. avatar mrogii says:

          Yes you’re correct. The C7 / C8 family of weapons are largely identical to the M16 / M4.

    2. avatar DaveL says:

      What, do you think if he had shot someone, they’d let him off with a $2000 fine? Obviously, it’s meant to be more than just a slap on the wrist without ruining the man. Seems pretty balanced to me for a full colonel.

  6. avatar matt says:

    So what exactly happened in this court marshall? It sounds like he was all ready retired by the time it went to court, and he was fined $2000. Am I missing anything? Did he lose rank, or get whatever Canada considers to be a dishonorable discharge?

  7. avatar Sam Wright says:

    This is to matt above. I ment to reply, but posted new message.
    “Instead, Scagnetti pleaded guilty, knowing he could face a maximum penalty of dismissal with disgrace.” quoting from the story cited.
    As I read the article there was no dismissal with disgrace, only the $2000 fine.

  8. avatar Ralph says:

    So an officer is threatened with a court marshal and has to pay a fine for an AD where nobody gets hurt? What happens when an officer accidentally blows up a village? No need to answer — we already know.

    1. avatar Sam Wright says:

      collateral damage

  9. avatar DaveM says:

    “As Scagnetti readied himself, he squeezed the trigger of his C8 assault rifle and a live round lodged itself in a concrete wall”.
    Pretty crappy concrete the Canadians are producing in Afghanistan, Eh

  10. avatar TR says:

    Note the difference in “he squeezed the trigger” and “the gun went off”. Canadians win the intelligent journalism award of the day.

  11. avatar West Philthy says:

    Canada has an army?

    1. avatar Canadian Afghan Vet says:

      Yea west we do ,we are the guys untill a few months ago holding Kandahar untill you guys could finish up with Iraq and bring more troops to afghanistan.

      I’m not sure about tours after mine (April 2010/Jan 2011) but is was standard for a troop to get a $1000 charge for pers weapon ND and $2500 for crew served/vec mounted weapons. Hell it cost Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard $3500 for his ND

      1. avatar Todd94590 says:

        thank you for your service!

        If you’re ever near my zip code (94590), call me up & I’ll be glad to buy you a beverage of your choice (O’Douls for me), hell, maybe even a steak dinner…. haven’t had one myself in some time.

        ps: 30% disability rating for me, and I was primarily on an aircraft carrier. This was during Gulf War, part 1

    2. avatar Martin Albright says:

      They have a military and it’s a damn fine one, too.

      Doesn’t a Canadian hold the current world record for a sniper shot in Afghanistan?

      1. avatar Stuart says:

        Nope – Craig Harrison, a British Corporal. 2475 metres with a .338 Lapua Magnum.

  12. avatar Skyler says:

    Three cheers for everyone after this unfortunate incident.

    A colonel who can’t control his personal weapon should not be allowed to command.

    Good for him and his integrity.

    And good for Canada for not protecting a senior field grade officer.

  13. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    I love visiting Canada, but I don’t understand why they even have an army because these people are scared $hitless of guns. The Taliban probably shot themselves while laughing when they saw these fools.

    1. avatar DaveL says:

      I love visiting Canada, but I don’t understand why they even have an army because these people are scared $hitless of guns.

      Which one is it, have you or have you not visited Canada?

  14. avatar mrogii says:

    Yes in the CF you get charged for an ND no matter what your rank is or what the situation was. I recall reading a story in “The Maple Leaf” (its the CF newspaper, kinda like “Stars and Stripes” for you guys) about a general who was riding in a convoy in Bosnia. He was standing in the gunner’s hatch in a Bison APC which had a C6 (M240) MG with a butterfly type trigger like on a .50 cal. At one point he leaned into the hatch to talk to someone in the vehicle and his helmet bumped the trigger and BANG! IIRC the paper said he was fined a months worth of tour pay. That amount varies with the individual of course but that was generally the going rate for an ND in theatre, and $2000 sounds about right.

    As for a court martial being “harsh” I think that may have been an error on the paper’s part, as those sorts of things were usually handled by a summary trial (at least when I was in anyways).

    Just a quick aside, when my tour in Kabul was ending in late 2004 we were being relieved by a new company and they were inspecting all of the vehicles and kit that we were handing over. A vehicle crew had taken one of the LAV 3’s to the mechanics and somehow they managed to negligently discharge the 25mm chain gun . I have no idea how they managed that since the crew commander and gunner have to go through a series of steps just to ready the gun, but it’s a good thing all the vehicles had to have the barrels elevated!

  15. avatar ihatetrees says:

    I think there’s conflicting definitions regarding the term ‘court martial’. In the US military, a court martial conviction is often a federal felony that will follow you for the rest of your life.
    My guess is that the Canadian Forces view this as a form of administrative punishment. It’s actually quite impressive that a retired colonel had to pay a $2K fine. I hope he learned something and (more importantly) his example makes others think twice.

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