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07-15-08, 07:04 AM #1
Lesser charges recommended against Marine
Lesser charges recommended against Marine
Tue Jul 15, 12:11 AM ET
A Marine sniper charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of two Syrians should face lesser charges, the investigating officer has recommended.
Sgt. John Winnick II, 24, is charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter and failing to adhere to the military's rules of engagement by firing without reasonable certainty that his targets were hostile.
The hearing officer, Capt. Jeffrey King, recommended Winnick face a less severe punishment on a charge of dereliction of duty for failing to adhere to the military's rules of engagement.
"I recommend that the remaining charges be withdrawn," King wrote in the report, which is non-binding. The final decision about whether Winnick should stand trial and on what charges will be made by Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, the commanding general overseeing the case.
The report follows an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing, to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to send Winnick to court-martial.
The June 2007 shooting began after a soda delivery truck stopped near a sniper team hideout on a busy road in Iraq's western Anbar province, where roadside bombs were a common threat.
During the hearing, Winnick's comrades testified that the Marine fired a fatal sniper round at a man who hopped out of the cab, removed a container or bag from a side compartment, and appeared to begin digging at the ground. Winnick then killed a second man with a shotgun after the team stormed out of its hiding place, they testified.
Winnick testified that he believed he was protecting his Marines.
Winnick faces up to 40 years in prison and dishonorable discharge if he is tried and convicted on all counts, which also include charges of aggravated assault against two truck passengers who were injured in the fight.
07-15-08, 07:44 AM #2
MILITARY: Report says drop manslaughter charges against Marine
By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
CAMP PENDLETON ---- A hearing officer is recommending dropping manslaughter charges against a Marine sniper who killed two men in Iraq he believed were planting a roadside bomb.
Instead, the hearing officer is recommending that Sgt. John "Johnny" Winnick II of San Diego face a less severe "non-judicial" punishment on a charge of dereliction of duty for failing to strictly adhere to the military's rules of engagement.
"I recommend that the remaining charges be withdrawn," the hearing officer, Capt. Jeffery King, wrote in his report to Camp Pendleton's Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, who can accept or reject the advice.
Winnick's actions were the subject of a two-day hearing at Camp Pendleton earlier this month. At its conclusion, the veteran of four Iraq deployments told King he believed the men he killed in the Anbar province in June 2007 were insurgents and that he shot them in order to protect his fellow troops.
"I didn't want them to end up like other Marines I have seen," the 2002 graduate of Del Mar's Winston High School told King during a hearing at Camp Pendleton on July 2.
One of Winnick's attorneys, Dan Conway, said his client is happy with the result.
"Our Marines deserve the benefit of the doubt when they make good-faith decisions to use force," Conway said. "Sgt. Winnick is a stand-up Marine and he's eager to get back to work."
Helland is overseeing the case as part of his job as head of Marine Corps forces throughout the Middle East. If he concurs with King's recommendation, the case will be resolved without any criminal conviction via the non-judicial punishment, which could include a letter of reprimand placed in Winnick's file or some other action that would allow Winnick to stay in the Marine Corps.
If ordered to trial and convicted, Winnick could face as much as 40 years in prison.
Marine prosecutors, who are forbidden by policy from commenting on ongoing cases, did not contest any factual matters in the Winnick case or argue for the case to proceed to trial.
Testimony during the hearing showed that Winnick was leading a sniper team near a Marine outpost on June 17, 2007, in an area that had been hit with two roadside bomb attacks. As he and his five men watched, two vehicles drove up and the men inside got out of the vehicles and appeared to prepare the surface of the roadway for a bomb.
Shortly after those vehicles departed, an 18-wheel semi-truck stopped at the same spot. The driver got out, according to testimony, crawled under the truck and appeared to place a bomb on the roadway. At that point, Winnick fired at the man, killing him. His men also began firing at the truck and three other men who emerged from its two-seat cab.
As Winnick and another Marine ran up to the truck, a second man who had been wounded was crawling toward a cell phone, prompting Winnick to fatally wound him with a shotgun blast, according to the undisputed testimony.
A subsequent search of the truck cab and cursory search of the trailer did not turn up any weapons, bomb-making material or shovels. Testimony showed that the truck went unguarded after the incident and disappeared within a day.
Capt. Oliver Dreger, an intelligence officer for Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment that included Winnick's platoon, testified he believed the squad had been sufficiently briefed over the rules of engagement.
Much of the hearing focused on confusion about those rules. The platoon commander, Lt. Dominic Corabi, testified that snipers had no clear understanding about when they could shoot a suspected insurgent at long range. Senior commanders, he said, were unable to define terms such as "hostile intent" and "positive identification."
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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