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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

US Marine battalion commander seeks dismissal of Haditha charges
Katerina Ossenova at 3:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for a US Marine charged in connection with the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005 filed motions Tuesday requesting that the charges be dropped [press release]. Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani [JURIST news archive] faces court-martial on April 28 for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on the allegations that he failed to properly investigate the shootings, and could serve three years in prison if convicted on all counts. Chessani, the former commander of the Third Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment [official website], did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he said he did not suspect any wrongdoing. It has been alleged that the civilians were murdered in cold blood [JURIST report], but Chessani said that when he first learned of allegations that the civilians were killed intentionally he thought that the claims were baseless. Chessani invoked his right to defer his plea [JURIST report] during his military arraignment in November 2007. His lawyers filed five motions in connection with Chessani's pre-trial hearing [USMC press release], one of which was a motion to dismiss all charges on the grounds that the charges are unconstitutionally vague.

Eight Marines were initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, though charges [text] have since been dropped against four. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, will face court-martial in March [JURIST report]. In January, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website] was arraigned on charges [JURIST reports] of making false official statements and obstruction of justice in connection to the killings at Haditha. Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum [defense profile], who served under Chessani, also declined to enter a plea [JURIST report] during his arraignment in November 2007. AP has more.






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