Theodore's World: Update On Haditha Case

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April 18, 2008

Update On Haditha Case

Murtha, NCIS Sec, and Several Marine Generals Demanded in Unlawful Command Influence Motion

Thomas More Law Center


April 14, 2008

Military prosecutors are desperately fighting to prevent the testimony of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winters and several top Marine Generals, including former Marine Commandant Michael Hagee and the current Commandant James Conway.

The requested witnesses will show the dirty hand of unlawful command influence—considered by the courts as the “mortal enemy of military justice.” The hearing on the motion to produce the testimony of these high ranking officials will begin tomorrow morning at Camp Pendleton, California.

The Unlawful Command Influence motion (click here to read motion in pdf) was one of seven motions brought on for hearing this week by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Court decisions on unlawful command influence require the military judge to avoid even the “appearance of this evil” in his courtroom. The Law Center, along with two detailed Marine lawyers, is defending Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest ranking military officer charged in the November 19, 2005, Haditha incident.

Law Center attorneys Rob Muise and Brian Rooney, as well as detailed military defense counsel, Lt. Col. John Shelbourne, USMC, and Captain Jeff King, USMC, will present oral arguments on the seven motions to military judge Colonel Stephen Folsom, USMC.

“It was obvious from the outset that Lt. Col. Chessani was being made a political scapegoat. Even before the investigation was completed, Congressman Murtha publicly accused the Haditha Marines of “cold blooded murder” and officers of covering it up. Murtha claimed he got his information from the highest level of the military,” said Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel of the Law Center.

The criminal charges against Lt. Col. Chessani stem from a house-to-house, room-by-room battle four of his enlisted Marines engaged in on November 19, 2005, after being ambushed by insurgents in the town of Haditha, Iraq. Even though Lt. Col. Chessani immediately reported the events of that day to his superiors, including the death of 15 noncombatant civilians caught in the crossfire, nobody in Lt. Col. Chessani’s chain of command, all the way to General Casey showed any interest in conducting an investigation because they understood this to be combat action—not a law of war violation.

However, months later, a Time magazine story instigated by an insurgent propaganda agent, caused Pentagon officials to order the largest investigation in the history of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS). As a result, Lt. Col. Chessani, one of America’s most effective combat commanders in Iraq, now faces dismissal (an officer’s equivalent of a dishonorable discharge), loss of retirement, and imprisonment of up to 3 years.

Thus far, after 30 months of investigation costing millions of dollars, the cases against three of the four enlisted men charged for their part in the Haditha incident have been dismissed.

If defense attorneys are able to produce some evidence of unlawful command influence, the burden will shift to prosecutors to show beyond a reasonable doubt that:
(1) the predicate facts alleged by the defense are untrue
(2) the predicate facts alleged do not constitute unlawful command influence; or
(3) the unlawful command influence will not affect the proceedings.

This burden is high because command influence deprives service members of their constitutional rights. It is important to note that the court will determine not only whether there was actual unlawful command influence, but also whether there was an appearance of impropriety that would taint the public’s perception of the fairness of the court-martial.

On May 17, 2006, months before the investigation was completed, Congressman Murtha held his first news conference on the Haditha incident. Murtha said he had been told by the highest levels of the Marine Corps that there was no IED, there was no firefight, and the Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
The next day, Murtha again spoke about Haditha and confidentially proclaimed “All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine.”

He told a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer that Gen. Michael Hagee had given him the information on which he based his accusations.

Murtha’s claim of cold blooded murder and cover-up fly in the face of previous investigations conducted by Army personnel.

The first investigation conducted by Army Colonel G. A. Watt found “there are no indications that [Coalition Forces] intentionally targeted, engaged, and killed noncombatants.” A second, by Army Major General Aldon Bargewell concluded there was no “cover-up” by the chain-of-command, and that “[The inaccurate press release that launched Time magazine’s investigation] was not the result of any intent to conceal misconduct . . .”
When Colonel Watt’s findings were given to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on March 10, 2006, one Pentagon official recalled, “Rumsfeld told aides that the case promised to be a major problem. He called it ‘really, really bad -- as bad or worse than Abu Ghraib.’”

Several sources, including Generals Hagee and Conway, have told defense counsel that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld decided to set up an oversight “body” to keep tabs on the investigations and prosecutions of the Haditha cases.

Wild Thing's comment.......

Murtha took this to the media to try and convict these innocent men. Boy, that’ll be rich if the defense gets Murtha, Winter and Generals Hagee and Conway on the stand to question. Lets all pray it comes to pass.

Given what Murtha has said, may constitute contempt of court (releasing to much info and speaking about a trial in progress).

And why isn't Rumsfeld called too. GRRRR

Let's hope and pray the Judge rules for the defense! It'd be in the best interest of justice for LtCol Chessani, plus expose Murtha for the liar he is. Getting all the military brass sworn testimony would put a quick end to the Haditha trials with all charges dismissed.

This Undue Command Influence goes all the way up the chain of command -- Military AND Civilian. Rumsfeld and his crew of misfits KNEW before he made that fateful decision that there was no truth to the allegations.

I was surprised when I watched the PBS report on Haditha. Even PBS concluded that the Iraqi deaths—the alleged civilians—resulted from Marines following the rules of engagement under the fog of war.

I’ve been trying to follow this case from the beginning. It just sickens me to see the willingness on the part of some to let our Marines and other military men and women suffer complete devastation to their lives all for political purposes. Falsely accusing these men, putting their families and them through living hell and financial ruin for some PC purpose is reprehensible. I hope the truth will come out and Murtha, especially, will pay for these traitorous lies.


Lawyers to Expose 'Unlawful Influence' in Haditha Case April 14, 2008

April 14th, 2008

This burden, Rooney explained “is high because command influence deprives service members of their constitutional rights. It is important to note that the court will determine not only whether there was actual unlawful command influence, but also whether there was an appearance of impropriety that would taint the public’s perception of the fairness of the court-martial.

Speaking from California today where he will be appearing at the hearings Tuesday, Rooney told Newsmax in an exclusive interview that “We’ve laid out a pretty thorough, well-thought-out case why unlawful command influence has reared it’s ugly head.

“We want these people put under oath, put under the crucible of cross examination and let the chips fall where they may. That’s what the American people deserve because there have been so many accusations about whether or not [former Marine Corps Commandant] Gen. Hagee or anybody else called the Marines cold-blooded murderers or that the officers covered it up."

According to Rooney, who as a Marine Captain served during the bloody battle of Fallujah, “Murtha’s claim of cold blooded murder and cover-up fly in the face of previous investigations conducted by Army personnel.

The Center recalled that the first investigation conducted by Army Colonel G. A. Watt found ‘there are no indications that [Coalition Forces] intentionally targeted, engaged, and killed noncombatants.’ A second, by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell concluded there was no ‘cover-up’ by the chain of command, and that ‘[The inaccurate press release that launched Time magazine’s investigation] was not the result of any intent to conceal misconduct . . .’”

DAMN ok look at this, it is the latest...this post began with the dates April 14th, 2008. This article is the latest dated April 15th, 2008

Charges against Haditha commander upheld .....(Murtha skates again)

NC Times

CAMP PENDLETON -- A military judge on Tuesday again refused to dismiss charges against the highest-ranking officer accused of wrongdoing in the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians following a roadside bombing in the city of Haditha in 2005.

The judge, Col. Steven Folsom, ruled there was sufficient cause for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani to proceed to trial by court-martial at Camp Pendleton.

Folsom made a similar finding last month.

The judge's latest refusal to dismiss charges of dereliction of duty and violating a lawful order by failing to order an investigation into the civilian deaths was followed by a series of other rulings, including findings that a lengthy pretrial hearing into the validity of the charges and a subsequent recommendation that Chessani face trial were proper.

Folsom also turned down a defense attempt to compel Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., to testify about a briefing he received from Marine Corps commanders regarding the Haditha killings.

"It's important for the public to know what the congressman was told," Chessani attorney Brian Rooney argued, suggesting that Murtha's comments and the actions of senior Marine Corps officials led to the charges.

For months, Chessani's attorneys have attempted to force Murtha and several current and former Marine generals to testify in support of their contention that the charges against him stem from undue influence from top Marine commanders and represents a selective prosecution.

Folsom did delay ruling on whether former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee, who has acknowledged briefing Murtha and others members of Congress in 2006, should be required to testify on the question of undue command influence.

Chessani, 44, also is accused of violating a lawful order for failing to order a full-scale investigation into the civilian deaths. The Colorado native faces up to 30 months in jail and dismissal from the service if convicted and sentenced to the maximum punishment.

Chessani was in command of Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in Haditha when the civilians were killed. His attorneys argue that his initial reports to his superiors in Iraq reflected at least 15 civilian deaths, and that no one above him believed the incident warranted an investigation.

Tuesday's hearing became testy at times, with Folsom telling Robert Muse, Chessani's lead attorney, there's no evidence that his client ever suggested to superiors there may have been wrongdoing by the frontline troops under his command at Haditha.

"Show me the evidence that he ever reported a suspected law of war violation," Folsom said.

Chessani's trial was slated to start later this month, but has been rescheduled for June so defense attorneys can interview people named on a recently expanded list of potential government witnesses.

Rooney said last week that prosecutors have never offered Chessani a plea deal and that he isn't seeking one.

"It is not in his constitution to say he is guilty of something he is not guilty of," Rooney said.

Chessani was relieved of command when battalion returned from Iraq in April 2006 and now works as an anti-terrorism officer.

His defense is being led by the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., a Christian-based firm that does not charge for its services. He also has two Marine Corps attorneys assigned to his defense.

My second comment on this............

Col. Folsom sure shows me he does NOT want the whole truth to come out, sure doesn’t look like it.

Murtha slithered out of this one like the snake he is.

The only hope is that Hagee will be compelled to testify. His testimony would be about his conversations with Murtha so at least we’d get that on the record.

"Show me the evidence that he ever reported a suspected law of war violation," Folsom said.

WHY on earth would Chessani report a 'law of war violation' when there was nothing to report, NO war crimes, even according to the chain of command!

The Prosecution's case is in tatters and they're desperate to pin anything on anyone. Folsom is dirty like Murtha is dirty, they're on the same team only with different agendas.

Posted by Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 02:50 AM


Boycott TIME and wipe your butts with old copies! TIME SUCKS!!

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at April 18, 2008 03:51 AM

So islamofascist sympathizer's Murtha and Reid said the war on terrorism is already LOST,
and our US Marines have to fight the enemy with RULES OF NON-ENGAGEMENT, and the islamofascists do not? WHOSE THE F'N ENEMY HERE.....?!!!

Posted by: drstrangeloveb52isok at April 18, 2008 04:00 AM

Murtha the Hut brought this on, he opened his mouth, he should have to testify and say where he got this info.
He really opened up a can of worms, didn't he?
War is never pretty. As John Adams said, "We're in a war, dammit--we're going to offend someone!"
War is NEVER pretty.

Posted by: Lynn at April 18, 2008 05:19 AM

It's a kangaroo court of the first magnitude, these men were tried in the media, found guilty by a congressman and they can't get a fair hearing because of CYA tactics. It amazes me we can still get volunteers to serve when they are treated like scum by their country's leaders, and betrayed by their own military leaders and scorned by most of their fellow countrymen.

Posted by: Jack at April 18, 2008 09:21 AM

The higher up in the officer ranks a person gets, the more political they become. You don't become a general unless you're politically connected and you've better be connected to whoever controls congress. To retire at the 3 and 4 star pay level requires congressional approval. To piss off the controlling party of congress means a 3 or 4 star general will only retire at the 2-star pay level. The fact some high level general officers are throwing this Lt. Col to the dogs isn't surprising at all. They will sacrifice anyone if they deem it's for the good of the service...truth be damned.

Posted by: BobF at April 18, 2008 09:37 AM

Ditto Bob and Jack. Sadly, politics is a cornerstone of the officer corps, especially the flag ranks. The generals and admirals tend to become addicted to more stars and more ribbons(for service, not combat). They also have in mind lucrative after retirement positions with big firms. Some of these officers start their careeres politically with appointments by Congressmen to service academies. A few generals rise above this, but sadly too many don't.

What are a few corporals or captains when a spike in your career is on the line(sarcasm)!

Maybe if they were required to lead from the front and got killed on a regular basis, like in the Civil War, we might have a more humble bunch of brass.

Posted by: TomR at April 18, 2008 11:25 AM

drstrangeloveb52isok, exactly and I would love to stamp the forhead of each one starting with Murtha....TRAITOR!

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 06:55 PM

Lynn, yes he sure did and no one apparently will go up against Murtha because of his position I guess on the committee he is on about the War. Something like that anyway. I would I would not be afraid of that jerk Murtha.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 06:58 PM

Jack...."kangaroo court of the first magnitude" sure is. I agree with all you said.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 07:00 PM

Bob, your right....truth be damned is just what has been happening.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 07:02 PM

Tom I have always thought that was a good idea. For them to lead from the front. Lead the charge and take the same risks as their men.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 18, 2008 07:04 PM

"Killing generals could be a habit for me!" - Sgt. Waterslaw (Charles Bronson) in The Dirty Dozen, 1967

Posted by: drstrangeloveb52isok at April 19, 2008 05:41 AM