About At Least 5 Marines Are Expected To Be Charged In Haditha Deaths
|December 6th, 2006||#1|
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At Least 5 Marines Are Expected To Be Charged In Haditha Deaths info
December 6, 2006
By Paul von Zielbauer
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 — At least five marines are expected to be charged, possibly as early as Wednesday, with the killing of 24 Iraqis, many of them unarmed women and children, in the village of Haditha in November 2005, according to a Marine official and a lawyer involved in the case.
The charges are expected to range from negligent homicide to murder, said a senior Pentagon official familiar with the military’s nearly nine-month investigation into the episode. Several marines from the Third Platoon of Company K, Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment, are accused of killing the villagers after a roadside explosion killed one of their comrades.
Charges could also be brought against an additional one or two marines, the Marine official said, including one officer who was in the vicinity of the killings but did not participate in them.
Though it was nearly certain that marines would be charged with crimes for the killings, exactly when the charges would be made official was unclear, military officials and defense lawyers involved in the case said. But they said charges could closely follow a closed-door briefing by Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, the Marine Corps deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning.
That briefing will relate the findings of a military inquiry into how the Marine Corps managed its investigation of the slayings, which began with an inquiry in March, four months after the killings occurred, the Pentagon official said. Aides to committee members said that Marine officials promised a confidential briefing before any charges were announced.
According to the Marine official and the defense lawyer representing one of the marines under investigation, criminal charges will be filed against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, of Meriden, Conn., the squad’s leader; Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 25, of Edmund, Okla.; Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 21, of Carbondale, Penn.; Cpl. Sanick Dela Cruz, 24, of Chicago; and Cpl. Hector Salinas, 22, of Houston.
The 5 marines are said to have been the ones who killed the 24 Iraqis, including 5 men in a taxi that approached the marines’ convoy after the explosion that killed a 20-year-old lance corporal, and 19 other civilians in several houses nearby. About 10 of the dead were women and children who appeared to have been killed by rifle fire at close range, military officials said.
The marines have said they believed that they were coming under small-arms fire from a house on the south side of the road.
Jack Zimmermann, a lawyer for Lance Corporal Tatum, said his client had responded appropriately to a lethal attack in a dangerous region of Iraq. “There was no crime committed,” Mr. Zimmermann said.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing Sergeant Wuterich, said his client acted in accordance with military rules of engagement.
“We emphatically deny that Staff Sergeant Wuterich participated in any unlawful killings that day in Haditha,” Mr. Zaid said. “The collateral civilian deaths were absolutely tragic, but occurred as a result of legally justified actions that routinely occur during time of war.”
Lawyers for the other three enlisted marines declined to comment.
The senior Pentagon official said that no other marines would face charges in the case. “The only people who will be charged with an offense will be those individuals who did the shootings,” the official said last week.
But the Marine officer, interviewed on Tuesday, said that he expected charges to be brought against one or two additional marines, including one officer.
“I don’t see just five of them being charged,” the official said. “I see six or seven. One of them, I see, is an officer.”
That officer, the Marine official said, was First Lt. William T. Kallop, 25, the only officer at the scene, who arrived sometime after the initial explosion that led to the marines’ sweep of the nearby homes.
A lawyer for Lieutenant Kallop declined to comment Tuesday.
David S. Cloud contributed reporting.
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