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Marine guilty of lesser charges in Iraqi’s death

A military jury acquitted Marine Maj. Clarke Paulus of assault and battery Wednesday in connection with the death of an Iraqi prisoner but found him guilty of maltreatment and dereliction of duty.
Marine Maj. Clarke Paulus, seen in an undated military photo, was found guilty of maltreatment of an Iraqi prisoner and dereliction of duty. AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A military jury acquitted a Marine major of assault and battery Wednesday in connection with the death of an Iraqi prisoner, but found him guilty of two lesser counts.

Maj. Clarke Paulus faces dismissal from the Marines and up to a year in military prison instead of the 1½ years he could have received if convicted on all charges. He was found guilty of maltreatment and dereliction of duty.

The verdict followed about six hours of deliberations by the jury of Marine Corps officers at the base north of San Diego. After the verdict was read, Paulus turned and touched the hand of his mother, who stood behind him along with his wife. His wife left the courtroom in tears.

The jury quickly began deliberating Paulus’ sentence.

Holding back tears, Paulus stood before the eight-officer panel and apologized to the Marine Corps and his family.

“I hope the press would have these charges reflect on me personally and not the Marine Corps,” Paulus said, turning to members of the media in the courtroom.

He asked the jury to allow him to remain in the Marine Corps, saying he had served honorably and credibly for more than a decade.

Paulus, 36, of the Philadelphia suburb of Buckingham, Pa., commanded the Marine detention facility at Camp Whitehorse in Iraq. He was accused of ordering a subordinate to drag Nagem Sadoon Hatab by the neck out of a holding cell in June 2003 after the man suffered a bout of diarrhea.

Hatab was stripped naked and left outside for seven hours before he was found dead.

Prosecutors contended Paulus failed to properly safeguard Hatab’s health and welfare and failed to provide him with proper medical care.

On Tuesday, a military prosecutor said Paulus set the wrong example for his troops and the result was the death of a prisoner.

“Maj. Paulus set the example that it was OK to be cruel and inhumane to an old man who was sick, and that’s exactly how he was treated: cruelly and inhumanely,” prosecutor Maj. Leon Francis said in closing arguments.

The defense countered that Paulus acted properly under the circumstances. The major believed Hatab was an uncooperative prisoner who was faking illness and deliberately had soiled himself, civilian defense attorney Keith Higgins argued.

Hatab, a 52-year-old member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, was arrested by Marines who suspected him of a role in the ambush of the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company, which resulted in the deaths of 11 soldiers and led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, among others.