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Marine faces lesser charges in Haditha deaths

A staff sergeant will face a court-martial on charges stemming from the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps said Monday.
Image: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Frank WuterichDenis Poroy / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Marine will be court-martialed on reduced charges in the killings of 24 Iraqi men, women and children in the town of Haditha in 2005, the Marine Corps announced Monday.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 27, of Meriden, Conn., will stand trial on charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. No trial date was set.

More serious charges of unpremeditated murder were dismissed by the Marine Corps.

Wuterich’s prosecution is part of the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the Iraq war.

Four enlisted Marines were initially charged with murder in the case, and four officers were charged with failing to investigate the deaths. Charges against several of the men have been dropped, and none will face murder charges.

Also Monday, the Marine Corps announced that 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson would face court-martial on charges of making false official statements, obstruction of justice and attempting to fraudulently separate from the Marine Corps.

The killings occurred after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy, killing the driver of a Humvee and wounding two other Marines. Wuterich’s squad allegedly shot five men by a car at the scene. Wuterich then ordered his men into several houses, where they cleared rooms with grenades and gunfire, killing unarmed civilians in the process.

At his preliminary hearing, Wuterich said that he regretted the loss of civilian life but that he believed he was coming under fire from the homes and was operating within the rules of engagement when he ordered his men to assault the buildings.

Wuterich’s lawyers did not immediately return calls. Grayson’s attorney had no immediate comment.