Last week, I noted the possibility of a plea deal in the trial of SSgt Frank Wuterich, the last of the U.S. Marines charged in connection to an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in the village of Haditha in 2005.
(See here. All previous Wuterich trial coverage and Haditha links below.)
Today, the plea deal was reached. SSgt Wuterich’s defense team at Puckett Faraj says this afternoon:
Press Release, Aexandria VA January 23, 2012/12:45PM:
“No one denies that the consequences of November 19, 2005 were tragic, least of all SSgt Frank Wuterich. But the fact of the matter is that he has now been totally exonerated of the homicide charges brought against him by the government and the media. For six years, he’s had his name dragged through the mud. Today, we hope, is the beginning of his redemption. He has always publicly taken responsibility for the lawful actions of his squad that day, as portrayed in his interview with CBS 60 Minutes. Today’s agreement is completely consistent with everything he has always said. Which is that the decisions he made that day led to an outcome that was tragic and regrettable and he takes responsibility for them, but they were not criminal.”
The North County Times reports on the details:
Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich agreed to plead guilty Monday to one count of negligent dereliction of duty, ending his trial on manslaughter and related charges for his role in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005.
“This was his decision and his decision alone,” Neal Puckett, Wuterich’s lead defense attorney, told the North County Times. “Staff Sergeant Wuterich believed this was the right and honorable thing to do.”
Negligent dereliction of duty is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 90 days in custody and a reduction or forfeiture of pay. It was not immediately known when a sentencing decision would be announced.
The deal was announced in court early Monday morning. After the announcement, Wuterich shook hands and hugged his parents, who have been watching the courtroom proceedings since the trial began.
The agreement has been approved by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.
The plea deal ends the six-year saga of eight Camp Pendleton Marines charged with criminal wrongdoing in the incident that took place in the city of Haditha at the height of the war.
A reminder of how the Left’s smear merchants tried and convicted the Haditha Marines in the court of public opinion — and got away with it:
Outrage came from around the world and from Washington, D.C., where the late Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha said he believed the Marines might have “killed in cold blood” and went on to say U.S. troops were overstressed.
The result was eight Marines being charged with crimes at Haditha, including four officers and four enlisted men.
Seven of those eight saw their cases resolved, some with the withdrawal of charges in exchange for their testimony, one acquitted at trial and others having charges dropped entirely.
Wuterich, a 31-year-old Murrieta single father of three girls, had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors appeared ready to strike a plea deal last week after a series of their own witnesses gave testimony largely beneficial to Wuterich’s position that he believed he and his men were under attack and responded in keeping with their training.
Puckett said his client continues to believe his actions were lawful, despite the civilians deaths, which Wuterich has repeatedly said he regrets.
“He has always taken responsibility for his and his squad’s actions that day,” Puckett said. “Today’s agreement is completely consistent with everything he has said, which is that the decisions he made that day led to an outcome that was tragic and regrettable, but they were not criminal.”
(Graphic via Defend Our Marines)
June 5: Haditha Marine Lt. Andrew Grayson acquitted
9/18/07 Charges dropped against Capt. Lucas McConnell
8/23/07 Charges recommended dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum
8/9/07 Charges dropped against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt
4/17/07 Charges dropped against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz
Let Freedom Ring reviews the Murtha Marine-smearing timeline.
Everything else you need to know is at Defend Our Marines.