More Haditha charges dropped

North County Times:

Charges have been dropped against a Marine captain accused of criminal dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha in November 2005, military officials announced Tuesday.

The move leaves two of four officers and two of four enlisted men originally charged in the case still facing the possibility of courts-martial.

Capt. Lucas McConnell was charged with two counts of dereliction after Marine prosecutors said he failed to ensure the deaths were accurately reported and that the incident was immediately investigated.

In dismissing the charges, Lt. Gen. James Mattis ordered McConnell to cooperate with prosecutors and granted him immunity, meaning the 32-year-old officer's testimony against other Marines cannot later be used against him.

McConnell's attorney, Kevin McDermott, said his client didn't do anything wrong, that he never sought a deal and never asked for the immunity. He is not willing to cooperate with prosecutors, McDermott said.

"The government's case is falling apart around them and they need to make this look like an officer will be cooperating against the balance of the defendants," McDermott said. "Far from true; he will not."

The Marine Corps said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon that Mattis decided unspecified "administrative measures are the appropriate response for any errors or omissions allegedly committed by McConnell."

Those measures could include a "letter of caution" or an appearance before a general for what is known as non-judicial punishment.

McConnell was commanding officer of the company that included the squad involved in the incident, but was not present when the Iraqis were killed.


"Nothing he (McConnell) can say will hurt us," Rooney said. "He was the one who talked to Lt. Kallopp and the Marines involved, and it was based upon his report that Col. Chessani accepted what had happened."

The fourth officer charged in the case, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, is scheduled to have his hearing sometime next month.

I can understand McConnell's anger, but I don't think he can refuse to testify. Since all charges have been dropped, he would no longer have a Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. What that means is that he could be held in contempt if he refused to testify. Since his testimony is unlikely to incriminate anyone anyway it is hard to see why he would continue to refuse to testify. Actually the dismissal of his case seems to help Col. Chessani defense of the dereliction of duty charge, since it is just more evidence that no one did anything wrong that he could have been derelict in discovering.


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