Frank Wuterich

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Frank Wuterich
Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich.jpg
Official military photo
Born About 1980
New London, Connecticut
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Rank Private
Unit 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines
Battles/wars Iraq War/Haditha killings

Frank Wuterich (born 1980) is a United States Marine. On November 19, 2005, he led his men in the Haditha killings, where he and fellow Marines opened fire, resulting in the death of 24 civilians, after a Marine had died in an insurgent attack.

Originally charged with murder, the charges were later reduced to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, and on January 23, 2012 Wuterich pled guilty to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty as part of an plea agreement with military prosecutors. In exchange, all other charges were dropped.[1][2] Wuterich was sentenced on January 24 and convicted to forfeiture of two-thirds of pay for three months and reduction in rank from staff sergeant to private.[3]

Background[edit]

Wuterich grew up in Meriden, Connecticut. In Hawaii, he met and married former wife Marisol with whom he has three daughters.[4] Wuterich was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq when the Haditha incident occurred.

Frank Wuterich was given an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps in February of 2012.

Haditha incident[edit]

According to news reports Wuterich was the senior Marine on patrol (no commissioned officers being present), and after the killings, allegedly lied to his commanding officers by stating that 15 of the dead Iraqi civilians were killed in the same IED explosion that touched off the incident.[5] Time magazine has reported that military investigators had placed Wuterich in at least two of the houses in which the killings took place.[6]

Several passengers of the white taxi killed by Wuterich and his squad

On June 11, 2006, the Washington Post reported a detailed account of Wuterich's version of events as related through his attorney, Neal A. Puckett.[7]

Many news reports have contradicted Wuterich's version of events, claiming that the Marines entered several houses and deliberately killed civilians. Besides photographic evidence of the killings provided by Iraqi journalism student Taher Thabet, there was also testimony from a young Iraqi girl who survived by hiding. The girl described having watched the Marines shoot her family members systematically.[8] The photographs and forensic evidence were later used to corroborate the Marines' version of events.[9]

Since being named in news reports in connection with the killings, several of Wuterich's family members have spoken out in his defense. Wuterich's father, Dave Wuterich, told the Associated Press that “I just don't believe that he [Frank Wuterich] would do something like that.”[10] Previously, Wuterich's former wife, Marisol, had praised Wuterich in blog postings.[11] On June 19, 2007, Marisol Wuterich and her father-in-law were interviewed on Fox News Channel's Hannity and Colmes, both said that they back Frank Wuterich “100 percent”.[12]

Captain James Kimber, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey R. Chessani, and Captain Luke McConnell, according to a report by The Times on May 29, 2006, were all relieved of their duties on suspicion of inadequate reporting of or investigation into the Haditha incident.

Unsuccessful defamation suit[edit]

On August 2, 2006, Wuterich filed a lawsuit against Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania for libel and invasion of privacy. Wuterich claimed that Murtha had defamed Wuterich's image by accusing the Marines of "cold blooded murder" with respect to the Haditha killings.[13]

On September 1, 2007, news outlets[14] reported on a hearing of Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, a subordinate of Wuterich at the time of the Haditha incident, in which Dela Cruz testified against Wuterich.

In September 2008, District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer denied a motion to dismiss the suit and ordered Murtha to give a deposition in the case.[15] However, on April 14, 2009, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the order and dismissed the suit, ruling that the suit was barred by the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988 (Westfall Act), which protects federal employees from being sued personally for actions done in the course of their official duties.[16][17]

De la Cruz testimony[edit]

Sergeant Sanick De la Cruz was on the mission that day. He agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for immunity. He changed the story he had previously told about the events of the day. In particular, his new story about the men in the white car differed from the version told by the defense and by forensic experts.[18]

On September 2, 2007, an updated re-airing of 60 Minutes, narrated by Scott Pelley, disclosed that Wuterich did not have to go to Iraq, but went because "he wanted to see war." Pelley also revealed that all charges had since been dropped against Sanick De la Cruz and two others.

De la Cruz recounted his story in an in-depth profile in the July 2008 edition of Chicago Magazine, speaking about the ordeal to a journalist for the first time.[19]

Legal proceedings[edit]

On December 21, 2006, the U.S. military charged eight Marines (four enlisted and four officers) in connection with the Haditha killings. The four enlisted, including Wuterich were charged with 13 counts of unpremeditated murder, while the officers were charged with covering up the killings and failing to investigate properly. Six of the cases were dropped and one officer was acquitted at court-martial.[20][21][22] When announcing the charges, Colonel Stewart Navarre said, "We now know with certainty the press release was incorrect and that none of the civilians were killed by the IED explosion."

On September 3, 2007, the Article 32 hearing investigating officer, LtCol. Paul Ware, recommended that Wuterich should be tried for the lesser offense of negligent homicide in the deaths of two women and five children, and that charges of murder be dropped. Ware wrote: "I believe after reviewing all the evidence that no trier of fact can conclude Staff Sgt. Wuterich formed the criminal intent to kill. When a Marine fails to exercise due care and civilians die, the charge of negligent homicide, and not murder, is appropriate ... The case against Staff Sgt. Wuterich is simply not strong enough to conclude he committed murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Almost all witnesses have an obvious bias or prejudice."[23][24]

Wuterich was expected to be back in court to face nine counts of manslaughter in early 2010, which would equate his sentence to 152 years in prison.[25] Subsequently, a trial date was set for 12 April 2011.[26] In June 2011, it was postponed again.[27] The court martial finally took place in January 2012. On 23 January 2012, all jurors at his court martial were dismissed after SSgt Wuterich pleaded guilty to one count of "negligent dereliction of duty" in a plea deal, approved by LtGen. Waldhauser, the commander of Marine Forces Central Command, in which the charges of assault and manslaughter were dropped and Wuterich would avoid jail time but get a reduction in rank to Private and a pay cut. On January 24, 2012, the judge presiding over Wuterich's case convicted him accordingly.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Marine pleads guilty, ending final Haditha trial". Reuters. January 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ a b Tony Perry (January 25, 2012). "Marine gets no jail time in killing of 24 Iraqi civilians". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  4. ^ Tanner, Adam. “Family, colleagues praise Marine in Haditha probe”, Reuters, June 14, 2006. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  5. ^ Ricks, Thomas. "White House braces for damning report on Haditha", The Sydney Morning Herald, June 2, 2006. Accessed June 4, 2006.
  6. ^ Duffy, Michael, McGirk, Tim, and Ghosh, Aparisim. “The Ghosts of Haditha”, Time Magazine, June 4, 2006. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  7. ^ White, Josh. "Marine Says Rules Were Followed", The Washington Post, June 11, 2006. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  8. ^ McGirk, Tim. "Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?", Time Magazine, March 19, 2006. Accessed June 22, 2006.
  9. ^ Zielbauer, Paul von. "Forensic Experts Testify That 4 Iraqis Killed by Marines Were Shot From a Few Feet Away", New York Times, June 15, 2007.
  10. ^ Eaton-Robb, Pat. "Father Supports Marine in Haditha Probe", Washington Post, June 12, 2006. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  11. ^ Tanner, Adam. "Family, colleagues praise Marine in Haditha probe", Reuters, June 14, 2006. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  12. ^ Transcript of Hannity and Colmes, June 19, 2006. Accessed June 22, 2006.
  13. ^ "Marine Names Murtha in Defamation Suit"
  14. ^ The Washington Post, "Witness Describes Iraq Killing" Accessed September 2, 2007
  15. ^ http://www.myrecordjournal.com/latestnews/article_1ad12c3d-216a-5328-8539-d875ba630aa8.html
  16. ^ "Frank Wuterich Murtha Defamation Suit Dies In Court". Huffington Post. April 14, 2009. 
  17. ^ Pickler, Nedra (June 27, 2011). "Court says Murtha can't be sued for Iraq remark". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  18. ^ Rules of Engagement, Feb 2008. PBS Frontline, 39:00
  19. ^ Chicago Magazine interview
  20. ^ Tony Perry, "Marine accused of killing 24 Iraqis in Haditha makes plea deal" (January 23, 2012). Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ "Haditha killings" in The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts (Vol. 1). Ed. Spencer C. Tucker. ABC-CLIO (2010), p. 511.
  22. ^ Alex Roth and Rick Rogers, "Evidence against Marines called weak" (July 12, 2007). San Diego Union Tribune.
  23. ^ Associated Press, "Investigator: Marine didn't commit murder" (October 4, 2007).
  24. ^ Mark Walker, Officer: Drop murder charges against Haditha Marine" (October 4, 2007). North County Times.
  25. ^ "Conflicting portraits emerge of accused Marine", Associated Press, December 2, 2009
  26. ^ "MILITARY: Wuterich trial delayed". North County Times. January 17, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  27. ^ Mark Walker, MILITARY: Wuterich trial postponed indefinitely, North County Times, June 15, 2011.

External links[edit]