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Marine makes plea deal over massacre
Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:42AM GMT
Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich(R) with lawyer Neal Puckett
A US Marine accused of killing unarmed Iraqis has pleaded guilty to a single count of dereliction of duty in the Massacre of Haditha in a plea deal and now faces a maximum prison sentence of three months.
Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich was one of eight Marines originally charged with killing Iraqi civilians, including women, children, elderly people, and a man in a wheelchair.
The charges against six of them were dropped or dismissed, and one was acquitted in a court-martial.
Wuterich's plea on Monday ended an ongoing trial at Camp Pendleton, California, almost seven years after the events in question.
Wuterich faces a maximum of three months confinement, a two-thirds cut in pay, and a rank demotion to private.
Before the plea, he faced nine counts of manslaughter, assault, and dereliction of duty.
Wuterich is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday.
Gary Solis, a former Marine lawyer now teaching the law of war at Georgetown University, said on Monday that if the case of Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich is studied by future military lawyers, it may be as an example of how not to investigate and prosecute a case.
The incident, labeled in the media as the Massacre of Haditha, took place in 2005 when Sgt. Wuterich led his Marine squad on a bloody rampage that killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha after a roadside bomb exploded near a Marine convoy, killing one Marine and wounding two others.
The massacre caused international outrage and was one of the key reasons that the Iraqi government refused to extend immunity to US forces in the country in 2011.
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