Boston artist Steve Mills - realistic painting

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marine Involved In Haditha Massacre To Serve No Time

Marine Involved In Haditha Massacre To Serve No Time ‎

Associated Press


January 24, 2012

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — A Marine sergeant who led a squad that killed 24 unarmed Iraqis will spend no time in confinement, despite a military judge's recommendation Tuesday that he spend three months in the brig.

Military judge Lt. Col. David Jones said his hands were tied by a plea agreement that prevents any jail time for Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich.

Wuterich pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty as part of a deal with prosecutors. The minor charge carried a maximum sentence of 90 days, which is what Jones recommended.

But because of the way the military system works, the terms of the deal with prosecutors weren't known to the judge until after he made his sentencing recommendation in court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors asked Jones to give Wuterich the maximum sentence of three months confinement, a reduction in rank and forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay.

They said his knee-jerk reaction of sending the squad to assault nearby homes without positively identifying the threat went against his training and led to the deaths of the 10 women and children. "That is a horrific result from that derelict order of shooting first, ask questions later," Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan told the court.

The judge said he would recommend that Wuterich's rank be reduced to private.

He said he decided not to dock his pay because he is the divorced father of three young daughters with sole custody.

Wuterich has acknowledged ordering his squad to "shoot first, ask questions later" after a roadside bomb took the life of a fellow Marine, but he said he did not shoot any of the 10 women and children killed in nearby homes that he stormed with his men. "The truth is: I never fired my weapon at any women or children that day," Wuterich told military judge Lt. Col. David Jones, who recommended the sentence that must be approved by the commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

The surprise contention by Wuterich contradicts prosecutors who implicated him in 19 of the 24 deaths. It also counters testimony from a former squad mate who said he joined Wuterich in firing in a dark back bedroom where a woman and children were killed.

Defense attorney Neal Puckett said Wuterich has lived under the cloud of being labeled a killer who carried out a massacre in Iraq. Lawyers also said he has been exonerated of directly causing the deaths of civilians in the two homes and insisted his only intent was to protect his Marines, calling it "honorable and noble."

"The appropriate punishment in this case, your honor, is no punishment," Puckett said.

Wuterich, 31, told the court that his guilty plea should not suggest that he believes his men behaved badly or that they acted in any way that was dishonorable to their country. He said he ordered his men to "shoot first, ask questions later" so they would not hesitate in attacking the enemy, but he never intended to harm any civilians.

The plea deal that halted Wuterich's manslaughter trial has sparked outrage in Iraq, where many said it proves the United States does not hold its military accountable for its actions.

In Iraq, residents of the Euphrates river town of Haditha were angered by the fact that not one of the eight Marines initially charged will be convicted of manslaughter. A survivor of the killings, Awis Fahmi Hussein, showed his scars from being hit by a bullet in the back. "I was expecting that the American judiciary would sentence this person to life in prison and that he would appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair," he said.

In his statement, Wuterich also addressed family members of the Iraqi victims, saying there were no words to ease their pain. "I wish to assure you that on that day, it was never my intention to harm you or your families. I know that you are the real victims of Nov. 19, 2005," he said.

Associated Press writers Barbara Surk and Mazin Yahya in Baghdad, Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Raquel Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

No comments:

Post a Comment