Skip to comments.Immunity grants may signal problems with Haditha prosecution
Posted on 04/21/2007 6:03:26 AM PDT by RedRover
CAMP PENDLETON -- The list of Marines granted immunity in the Haditha investigation has reportedly grown to at least seven, a sign of a bungled investigation that has prosecutors scrambling to make a case, according to an attorney for a staff sergeant charged with 13 counts of murder.
"There are a lot of problems and it may well be that this list of immunity grants is evidence of that," said Mark Zaid, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. "There are things about the government's case that have yet to come out that are very troubling."
The Marine Corps announced Tuesday that it had dropped five murder charges against Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, and granted him immunity after determining his role in the 2005 deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha, because of the "potential value of his testimony."
Immunity also has been granted to 1st Lt. William Kallop, the first officer to respond to the Haditha shootings and the man who allegedly ordered Wuterich to assault a group of houses. As many as five additional Marines and possibly others have been given the same immunity, according to a Friday report by The Associated Press.
Zaid said a North County Times report last week that described several problems confronting prosecutors, including a questionable investigation of the Haditha incident by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, underscores emerging issues in the case.
"What surprises me is this increasing number of grants of immunity," Zaid said Friday. "Are they looking to hold only a small number of people accountable for public relations reasons?"
Some, if not all, of the immunity grants that have been approved by Lt. Gen. James Mattis are reportedly unconditional, meaning those men would not face any jeopardy if they make incriminating statements or do not testify as fully as prosecutors may wish. Mattis is the convening authority over the case as head of all Marine Corps forces in the Middle East.
Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a public affairs officer, said Friday that he could not comment on who might have been given immunity or under what conditions any such grants were made.
The Associated Press said one of those granted immunity is Lance Cpl. Humberto Manuel Mendoza, who was not charged in the case. Mendoza told investigators that he shot at least two men because they were in houses where Wuterich believed insurgents may have been hiding.
"I was following my training that all individuals in a hostile house are to be shot," Mendoza told investigators.
The Haditha incident is the largest civilian killing case to result in criminal charges since the U.S invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On Dec. 21, the Marine Corps charged Dela Cruz, Wuterich and two other enlisted men, Lance Cpls. Justin Sharratt and Stephen Tatum, with murder. It also charged four of their commanding officers with dereliction of duty for allegedly failing to properly investigate and report what happened.
All of the men have said directly or through their attorneys or family members that they are innocent of any wrongdoing.
Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps lawyer who teaches law at Washington's Georgetown University, said Friday that the number of men granted immunity strikes him as odd.
"If they are granting immunity to individuals who aren't alleged to have done anything wrong, you have to wonder if it is necessary. If they did do something wrong, why aren't they being prosecuted?"
Solis said that prosecutors may be working hard to find men willing to testify and not invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination to buttress the case.
The first pretrial hearings in the Haditha incident will take place at Camp Pendleton this summer. All the defendants are from the base's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
The Haditha killings occurred after one of four Humvees traveling through Haditha on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, was destroyed by a roadside bomb, killing a lance corporal.
A few minutes later, five Iraqi men who emerged from a car that drove up were shot, allegedly by Wuterich and Dela Cruz who later urinated on one of the slain men.
Following that action, the homes were assaulted leading to the deaths of 19 others, including several women and children. No known insurgents were killed in the incident.
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or email@example.com.
For instance, the The North County Times story posted here ran yesterday. Today's Washington Post has this: Report On Haditha Condemns Marines.
The IG should get a move on and find out who are the leakers and expose them publicly.
* Related recent thread: Attorney for Marine Officer Issues Statement Correcting News Commentary Regarding Haditha
“Immunity Grants May Signal Problems with Haditha Prosecution” - One can only hope for these Marines’ sakes.
Did you notice NC Times is reporting, via AP, that Mendoza also has immunity now? We now have Dela Cruz, 1st Lt. Kallop, Lance Cpl Mendoza, and a Marine intelligence officer who possibly have immunity.
Also, in this article Mendoza supposedly shot at least TWO men in the houses. Wonder if these are the two Iraqi’s in which no unpremeditated murders have been charged?
Mendoza allegedly tells the investigators, ...”I was following my training that all individuals in a hostile house are to be shot,” ... Well, if this is true, how can any of the others be charged? I’m assuming they were following their training as well.
It’s getting quite interesting with all the immunities that have supposedly been granted.
In the early days of the enemedia assault on our Marines, I distinctly remember that there were 15 "unarmed innocent Iraqi civilians" and 9 terrorists/insurgents killed.
Those numbers/descriptions turned up again not long ago. Are we now back to the 24 "unarmed innocent Iraqi civilians" including women, children and old men chant?
I agree with the NC Times' conclusion, but not all their premises. Mendoza is a defense witness. I'm puzzled about the way the case was charged, but there's no evidence of immunity just for prosecution witnesses.
Here's what I think happened.
When NCIS investigators went to Haditha, they went around asking, "Was Uncle Waleed an insurgent? Say no, and you'll be paid compensation and a Marine will be punished."
So, not surprisingly, the NCIS came up with 24 innocent civilians.
When the "charges and specifications" were announced, the Marine Corps stated that 24 Iraqis had been killed in the vicinity of an IED blast in Hasitha.
It's the media who turned "24 Iraqis" into "24 innocent civilians".
The difference is key. Until a determination is reached after the Article 32s, these Marines are not even officially charged with anything. At this point, the Haditha Marines are roughly equivilent to civilians who have yet to be indicted (or not) by a grand jury.
A major point to be argued in the Article 32s is just how many of the 24 Iraqis were innocent civilians. It should also be strongly noted that the Marines have only been charged with 23 deaths (wonder why?)
For now, the Marine Corps has it right. Twenty-four Iraqis died in the vicinity of an IED blast. Let's have the hearings and sort 'em out.
“I can’t understand how investigators could possibly separate the results of a fireteam’s actions into individual charges. We know Cpl. Mendoza shot the insurgent in the doorway. But how can LCpl. Tatum be charged, but not Cpl. Mendoza, for the other deaths in the first two houses?”....
There were two Iraqi men that no murder charges were preferred. One was associated with house #1, the other with house #2. I alwsys assumed the one from house #1 was the guy that was shot “running on the ridgeline”.
You ask how they can charge one and not another when they belong to the same fire team - Maybe the charges were distributed among various Marines in hopes of getting them to turn on each other. Also, we don’t know what kind of pressure is/was put on those who weren’t charged, but did kill Iraqis that day. Maybe the prosecution thought they could get at least one plea to build their case against everyone else. It worked in the Hamdania cases. One plea, and the dominoes started falling.
They are charging the senior officers with not fully investigating the matter, but they are having to grant immunity to a bunch of folks to try to find out what happened. Perhaps Lt. Gen. James Mattis should be added to the list of defendants, based on the lack of success of the investigation thus far.
Another example of giving immunity to gain a conviction no matter what the cost.
A Pattern of Malicious Prosecution by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton
by American Freedom Riders
Written by his own hand, former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Gary Brugman tells how, in the performance of his duty, he was falsely charged and convicted of violating the civil rights of an alien caught entering the U.S. illegally at the Mexican border. This case, along with the cases of Ramos and Compean, Hernandez, Sipe, and who knows how many more, serves as proof of the agenda of malicious prosecution by Johnny Sutton against law enforcement officers who dare to uphold our immigration laws. (Sutton bio - Note the joined-at-the-hip relationship with George W. Bush)
Once again, as in the Ramos and Compean case, Sutton worked in concert with the Mexican Consulate to locate a deported Mexican national and payed his way back to the United States many months later to testify against a Border Patrol agent on false assault charges. A Mexican national who had registered no previous complaint against Agent Brugman. What incentive was he given? Who knows. It is known that a member of his family subsequently received chemotherapy treatment in the U.S. In a post trial interview, Johnny Sutton went so far as to thank the Mexican Consulate for cooperation in locating the deported alien. (DOJ Press Release)
A scandalous, but creative twist to this prosecution was that the Sutton gang also brought a convicted and incarcerated drug smuggler from his prison cell to testify against Agent Brugman. A drug smuggler who Agent Burgman himself had captured six weeks after the incident for which he was being prosecuted. Once again, there had been no previous accusation of any civil rights violation. Now however, the convicted drug smuggler conveniently offered supporting testimony to the prosecutions false accusation that Gary Brugman was a rogue agent and a criminal. The false and vengeful testimony of this convicted drug smuggler should never have been allowed by the judge.
No one would listen to Gary Brugman several years ago and he spent two years in the general population at federal prisons wearing newspapers and magazines taped to his body as hopeful protection against inmate attacks. In view of what has recently been disclosed about Johnny Suttons malicious tactics, his story will be viewed with great interest now. Gary lost everything and his life was ruined but he survived his sentence and is now a free man again. Gary Brugman remains a patriotic American and tells his story now only in an effort to help Ignacio Ramos, Jose Compean, and Gilmer Hernandez prove their innocence against the power, influence, and treachery of the U.S. Attorney and George Bush water boy, Johnny Sutton.
Note: Gary has been a Harley rider for twenty years and on February 18, 2007 he rode with the American Freedom Riders and joined the families of Ramos, Compean, and Hernandez in El Paso, Texas to protest the conviction of the Texas Three. He is an honorable man and we are proud to call him our brother.
Read My Story, by Gary Brugman 2-20-07, now
Twenty-four Iraqis died in the vicinity of an IED blast.
I have NO problem with that statement.
It is the 24 "unarmed innocent Iraqi civilians including women, children and old men" where I have a MAJOR problem.
The Hamdania case was "ideal" for the NCIS. They were investigating a single event and could isolate the men, and beat on the weakest until he broke.
The Haditha case is more complicated and there's no 20-year-old corpsman to beat into submission. The NCIS couldn't handle the investigation, and their best efforts to build a case will be blown apart in court.
Military justice matters and so does reforming its police force.
Yes, Justa...Isn't it amazing how the enemedia can put a whole different picture on an event by changing just a few words and the changes always seem to fit their interpretation of how the news should read
There is one consolation in their one-sided reporting, many of them are going broke.
I agree about the Haditha case being different, especially from the standpoint of no pleas (at least as far as we know). There was very little evidence that made much sense in the Hamdania case, but with that one plea, the domino theory of prosecution came into play.
When I was listening to the blog talk radio spot on Hamdania last night, there was a reference to a 200 or so Marine jury pool that Lt. Gen. Mattis had to draw from. The speaker indicated none of these had combat experience. At least that’s what I thought I heard. I cannot understand how a jury of their peers in either Hamdania or Haditha could consist of a panel without it. It’s not like they don’t have quite a few around Camp Pendleton with combat experience. Wondered if you know if this is true, or if anyone has addressed this before now.
And the government is STILL not certain enough of its case to commence the hearings. The government recently asked for (and was granted) postponements of the first two Article 32s that were scheduled.
If you want to read about a cover-up, read about My Lai. There was no cover-up in Haditha.
I heard that mentioned, probably in the NC Times. But I can’t recall what cases it pertained to. If Haditha goes to courts-martial, it won’t happen until September at the earliest. I don’t know how far in advance a jury pool is created.
Great piece! Should I post this in Bloggers on Free Republic?