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08-16-06, 07:40 PM #1
Marine Corps officer charged in Iraq assaults
Marine Corps officer charged in Iraq assaults
By Will Dunham
The military has charged a U.S. Marine Corps officer with assaulting three Iraqi civilians in April, accusing him of beating and choking them and placing a pistol in one victim's mouth, the Marines said on Wednesday.
The officer, 2nd Lt. Nathan Phan, was charged with three counts of assault and one count of making a false official statement relating to the incident on April 10, near Hamdania, a town west of Baghdad.
Phan, 26, was the platoon leader of the troops charged with premeditated murder in the fatal shooting of an Iraqi man on April 26 in the same town, the Marines said, but he was not charged in relation to that incident.
Seven Marines and a Navy medic were charged in June with premeditated murder in the man's killing. All could face the death penalty if convicted.
Six other Marines were charged in the April 10 assaults earlier this month, including three who also were charged in the April 26 killing.
There has been a number of cases involving misconduct by U.S. troops in Iraq, although U.S. military leaders maintain the vast majority of American troops have conducted themselves honorably. Very few of those charged have been officers.
"The charges are baseless. Lieutenant Phan has served the Marine Corps honorably, and will continue to do so," said David Sheldon, Phan's lawyer. Phan is assigned to Camp Pendleton in California.
Prosecutors accused Phan of putting an unloaded M9 pistol into the mouth of one of the civilians and choking him. They said Phan struck another civilian with closed fists and knees in the face, head and torso, and choked a third civilian.
The military said Phan in all three cases used "force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm."
The military identified as male the three civilians Phan was charged with assaulting and provided their names but not their ages.
Sheldon said he believes prosecutors may have based the charges against Phan on statements made to them by "some of the people implicated" in the April 26 murder, but did not say who. "I think you have to look at the source," he said.
Sheldon said he believed prosecutors have investigated whether Phan played a role in the April 26 murder but have not come forward with charges in the incident.
Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman, said he could not say one way or the other whether Phan was under investigation in the murder case.
The Marines said their leadership first learned of the April 10 assault incident in early May while investigating the April 26 murder. Phan returned from Iraq to Camp Pendleton in May.
The next step in the assault case will be an Article 32 hearing, roughly the military equivalent of grand jury proceedings, which will be influential in determining whether Phan will be brought to trial. The military said no date had been set.
Meanwhile, the military has not yet decided whether to bring charges against Marines suspected of killing two dozen civilians in the town of Haditha last November.
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the new top Marine general in U.S. Central Command, is due to decide on whether charges are warranted, officials said.
08-16-06, 07:51 PM #2
All I can say so far, is THANK GOD we have a new Commandant taking over our Corps who has some balls, unlike the current CMC, General Hagee.
Next up for early retirement should be the SgtMajMC, as well.
Just my two cents.
08-17-06, 08:22 AM #3
Officer charged with assault of three Iraqis
By Gidget Fuentes
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The Marine Corps charged an infantry platoon leader on Wednesday with assaulting three Iraqi men, alleging that he punched, choked or kicked two of them, stuck a pistol in another man’s mouth and then lied about it.
The officer, 2nd Lt. Nathan P. Phan, is the fourth member of a platoon with the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, to be charged in the alleged April 10 attacks on three Iraqis in Hamdaniya.
According to the charges, which were released in a summary by Pendleton’s public affairs office, Phan is charged with:
• Repeatedly punching and kneeing Khalid Hamad Daham in the face, head and torso “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”
• Striking and choking Hassam Hamza Fayall “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”
• Punching and choking Ali Haraj Rbash “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm,” and putting an unloaded M9 service pistol into the man’s mouth.
• Making false official statements.
Phan’s attorney denied the allegations.
“The charges … are baseless. He has and continues to serve honorably in the Marine Corps,” David P. Sheldon, a Washington, D.C.-based defense attorney, said Wednesday.
A preliminary hearing may be held around Oct. 23 or 24, Sheldon said.
“Whether or not that’s going to bear any result after an Article 32 hearing remains to be seen,” he said. He noted he hadn’t seen the official charges but expected to receive them Thursday.
Phan, who was on his first deployment to Iraq, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1998, according to the Corps.
“He’s an experienced Marine officer who fought hard battles and certainly … he believes he will be vindicated and that the charges are baseless,” Sheldon said.
Phan is among 11 Marines and one Navy corpsman, members of 3/5’s Kilo Company, who were initially detained May 11 while in Iraq after allegations that they had shot and killed another Iraqi man in Hamdaniya. They were placed in pretrial restriction when they were sent back to Camp Pendleton in late May but were released from that several weeks later.
Eight of those 12 were later put in the brig and face murder, kidnapping and other charges in the April 26 death of an Iraqi man in Hamdaniya. Article 32 hearings have been tentatively scheduled in that case for Sept. 12, Sept. 25 and Oct. 18.
Three of the Marines charged in the murder case — Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. — face assault charges in connection with the alleged attack on Khalid Hamad Daham. Hutchins also faces charges in the alleged assaults on Hassam Hamza Fayall and Ali Haraj Rbash.
Three other infantrymen — Lance Cpls. Henry D. Lever, 23, and Saul H. Lopezromo, 21, and Pfc. Derek I. Lewis, 20 — are also charged in the alleged assault on Khalid Hamad Daham.
No preliminary hearings in the April 10 assaults have been scheduled.
Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief and can be reached at email@example.com.
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