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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Good news for Mark Zaid's client Wuterich

Officer: Drop Marine's murder charges

SAN DIEGO - An investigating officer has recommended that the Marine at the center of the biggest prosecution of U.S. troops in the Iraq war should not stand trial on murder charges, a defense attorney said Thursday.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 27, of Meriden, Conn., is charged with the unpremeditated murder of 17 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005. The former squad leader allegedly directed his Marines in an assault that left 24 men, women and children dead.

Lt. Col. Paul Ware recommended that Wuterich should be tried for the lesser offense of negligent homicide in the deaths of five children and two women, said Neal Puckett, Wuterich's attorney.

Ware reviewed evidence against Wuterich in a preliminary hearing known as an Article 32. His recommendation is nonbinding, and the final decision about whether Wuterich should stand trial rests with Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case.

If Mattis accepts the recommendation for Wuterich and a similar one for one of his corporals, which appears likely based on past practice, no one will face murder charges in the biggest case involving civilian deaths in Iraq.

"We're both very pleased and also not surprised, given how the other cases have gone," Puckett said. "There has never been any inkling that any of these Marines lost control or went on a rampage."

Ware also recommended dropping charges of making a false official statement and telling a squadmate to do the same, Puckett said.

If tried and convicted of murder, Wuterich would face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Puckett said negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of three years for each count.


By my count, he's still facing a maximum sentence of 21 years.