The Haditha Marines: Six dropped cases, one acquittal
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  1. #1

    Exclamation The Haditha Marines: Six dropped cases, one acquittal

    The Haditha Marines: Six dropped cases, one acquittal
    The Associated Press
    Published: December 28th, 2008 12:05 AM

    CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Eight Marines were charged Dec. 21, 2006, with crimes related to the deaths of 24 Iraqi men, women and children during a bloody, door-to-door sweep in the town of Haditha. It’s the biggest criminal case against U.S. troops involving Iraqi deaths to come out of the war.

    Charges have been dismissed against six defendants, and a seventh was acquitted. The sole remaining defendant is the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, whose court-martial isn’t yet scheduled. Prosecutors hope to retry Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, who was the battalion commander at the time.

    The deaths occurred after a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb Nov. 19, 2005. Initially, four enlisted men were charged with unpremeditated murder, and four officers were accused of failing to properly investigate. The men belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Here’s a look at each of their cases:

    • Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich of Meriden, Conn. Pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors are seeking unaired footage from a CBS News “60 Minutes” interview. Trial date pending.

    • Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz of Chicago; rifleman. Charges of unpremeditated murder were dismissed in April 2007 and he was given immunity to testify.

    • Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt of Canonsburg, Pa.; rifleman. Charges of unpremeditated murder of three Iraqi brothers were dismissed in August 2007.

    • Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum of Edmond, Okla.; rifleman. Charges of involuntary manslaughter were dismissed in March 2008, and he was given immunity to testify.

    • Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani of Rangely, Colo.; battalion commander. Charged with failing to obey regulations, encompassing counts of failing to report and investigate alleged war crimes. A military judge dismissed charges in June 2008 after finding a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator. Prosecutors sought a new trial; decision pending.

    • 1st Lt. Andrew A. Grayson of Springboro, Ohio; intelligence officer. Acquitted in June 2008 of making false official statements, trying to fraudulently separate from service and attempt to deceive by making false statements.

    • Capt. Randy W. Stone of Dunkirk, Md.; military attorney. Charges of failure to obey orders or regulations, encompassing counts of failing to ensure that a thorough investigation was conducted and reported to headquarters, were dismissed in August 2007.

    • Capt. Lucas M. McConnell of Napa, Calif.; company commander. Charges of failure to obey orders, encompassing two counts of failing to ensure that alleged violations of laws of war were investigated, were dismissed in September 2007.


  2. #2
    Let’s set the record straight on the Haditha Marines
    Published: December 28th, 2008 12:05 AM
    We’re running a story on Page A3 today that requires a bit of explanation and a note of thanks to a News Tribune reader.

    Several weeks ago, reader Art Massey wrote to tell us that while we had done a thorough job of telling readers that eight Marines were accused of crimes related to the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005, we had done a lousy job of telling readers that the Marines had since been acquitted.

    I wrote back telling Art that as far as I could tell the matter wasn’t over yet. One remaining Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, had not yet been tried. I told him we’d run that story when it came.

    Art persisted: “What about right now covering those who have had their charges dropped? Who will ever make these men whole again? You, and media like yours, did a real hatchet job on them at the time. When will you make it right? Will you wait until the court martial is over … maybe a year or more down the road. It just seems that you are good at telling one side of the story … the side that fits your agenda!”

    At that point, I asked one of our wire editors, Kathleen Cooper, to research what had become of the eight Marines and what had appeared in our paper.

    Cooper’s report found, aside from Wuterich:

    • In the cases of three Marines, charges were dropped, and we ran stories about it.

    • In the cases of two others, The Associated Press provided stories of charges being dropped or a Marine being acquitted, but we didn’t get those stories into our paper.

    • In the cases of two other Marines, charges were dropped, and Cooper could find no national media stories written about them at the time, although they have since appeared in roundup stories of the case.

    It was easy for us to spot the initial stories about the Haditha incident. The story made our front page on May 26, 2006, when a military investigation suggested the Marines could face murder charges in the incident. From our archives, I found 38 other news stories about Haditha that ran in our A section, most of them in 2006.

    But we were not as good at following the incremental stories of the military justice system moving slowly forward to rule on each man.

    The News Tribune has a military writer who covers local soldiers and military units, but we depend on our wire services for most of our coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our wire editors comb those services for stories, and our newspaper gives them bigger play than many because of our community’s heightened interest. In the few hours they have each day to read the hundreds of stories available to us, wire editors sometimes miss a story.

    After receiving Cooper’s report, I sent a note to Mike Silverman, managing editor of The Associated Press, asking if his organization could provide us an update on the legal status of the Marines. Silverman turned to Elliot Spagat, The AP’s San Diego correspondent who has followed the Haditha cases most closely.

    Spagat’s update appears on Page A3 today.

    Art Massey was right to call us on our handling of this story. We should have done a better job earlier to report the dispensation of each Haditha case. However, we were pushing no agenda.

    Our editors will watch for upcoming stories on the Haditha Marines, and The News Tribune will report on their cases however they are resolved.


    Beginning Jan. 1, we will no longer be running stories from The New York Times wire service. Budget constraints forced us to give up one of the services we subscribe to alongside The Associated Press and others.

    We are confident that our other wire services will continue to provide readers a well-rounded news, sports and features report, but the loss of The New York Times columnists – which we are not allowed to purchase separately – will be a hit to our opinion pages.

    We’ve regularly run Thomas Friedman, David Brooks and Paul Krugman, and all have big followings. Less often, we’ve run Nicholas Kristof, William Kristol and Maureen Dowd. They’ve got their fans, too.

    To fill the gap, you’ll be seeing more of Leonard Pitts, George Will, Eugene Robinson and Joel Brinkley.

    Brinkley is a former New York Times columnist who – like Friedman and Kristof – focuses on foreign affairs. You’ll also be seeing more of Trudy Rubin, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist with exceptional expertise on the Middle East.

    And we’ll likely run more pieces by less familiar commentators – humorist Joel Stein and Morton Kondracke, for example – we haven’t had much room for in the past.

    We’ll regret the loss of The New York Times lineup, but it won’t stop us from making these pages as lively, thought-provoking and rich with ideas as we possibly can.

    Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434


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