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July 14th, 2008 - Iraq Veteran Faces New Charges in Detainee Deaths

News article by the Riverside Press-Enterprise

News article by North County Times

News blog by the Los Angeles Times

Summary of the Falluja Killings

Iraq Veteran Faces New Charges in Detainee Deaths

 

By Sonja Bjelland

The Riverside Press-Enterprise

July 14, 2008

 

Former Riverside police officer Jose Luis Nazario Jr. could now face life in prison if convicted of war crimes in Iraq.

 

He pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to new charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm.

 

Kevin McDermott, one of the attorneys representing Nazario, said the change means his client is charged with causing the deaths of four insurgents, rather than directly killing two.

 

The charge of assault with a dangerous weapon could carry a life sentence, McDermott said.

 

Last year, Nazario was charged only with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of two detainees in Iraq. He faced 10 years in prison.

 

The case represents one of the rare times the government has tried a veteran in civilian court for crimes alleged to have occurred during war. Nazario's case is being held in federal court because he had completed his military service when the investigation began.

 

A trial is scheduled in U.S. District Court for Aug. 19.

 

"The government that's prosecuting him is the one that handed him the M-16," McDermott said.

 

In the past few months, the prosecution took the case back to the federal grand jury for consideration. The grand jury transcripts have been turned over to the defense but are otherwise sealed.

 

Two fellow squad members with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who are charged in military court with murder, refused to testify to the grand jury about Nazario. Sgts. Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson were jailed for contempt of court, released July 3 and returned to Camp Pendleton.

 

A court martial hearing for Weemer was held last week at Camp Pendleton. A decision had not been announced on Monday afternoon.

 

During that hearing, a tape was played from a 2006 job interview that Weemer had with the U.S. Secret Service in which he was asked about the worst crime he had ever committed. That interview instigated the investigation.

 

Weemer described house-to-house combat in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 when four prisoners were taken.

 

The unit radioed superiors and asked what they should do since the unit was on the move. Weemer said on the tape that the response was, "Are they dead yet?"

 

"They were just sitting there," Weemer said on the tape. "We argued about it, but we had to move, we had to get out, our unit's moving down the street. I did one guy and then ... I just left, went out to my team."

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

External link: http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_W_nazario15.4921c5a.html


Lawyer says accused Marine may be ailing

 

By North County Times

July 14, 2008

 

Camp Pendleton - A Marine sergeant charged with killing a captured and unarmed insurgent during a 2004 battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, his attorney said Monday.

 

The attorney, Joseph Low, wants the government to pay for medical specialists to examine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson to determine if he has either or both of those ailments.

 

Low also asked a military judge during a hearing Monday to approve the testimony of a specialist in "forced and false confessions."

 

Nelson is one of three Camp Pendleton troops charged with killing four captured insurgents on Nov. 9, 2004.

 

Nelson and Sgt. Ryan Weemer are being prosecuted at the base for murder while their squad leader when the incident occurred, former Marine Sgt. Jose L. Nazario Jr., is being prosecuted in federal court because is no longer in the service.

 

A hearing for Weemer to determine if the murder charge against him should stand took place at the base last week. A recommendation on whether he should face trial is pending.

 

A similar hearing for Nelson took place earlier this year and resulted in him being ordered on to court-martial. A hearing is set for Oct. 18 to decide whether Nelson's statement to investigators in which he acknowledged taking part in the slayings will be allowed into evidence. His trial is scheduled to start Dec. 8.

 

Nazario, who is charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, is scheduled to go on trial before a civilian jury in U.S. District Court in Riverside next month.

 

External link: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/07/14/military/zad2c607e7c94f48e882574860080281a.txt


Lawyer: Marine tricked in prisoner killing case

 

By Tony Perry

Los Angeles Times

May 14, 2008

 

Marine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson made admissions during a taped interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent that could go a long way toward convicting him of killing Iraqi prisoners during the fight for Fallouja in late 2004.

 

On the tape, played in a preliminary hearing last week at Camp Pendleton, Nelson said that he, Sgt. Ryan Weemer and Sgt. Jose Nazario fatally shot four prisoners rather than take time to process them according to the laws of war.

 

But Joseph Low, Nelson's attorney, argued in a Camp Pendleton courtroom Monday that the statements should be ruled inadmissible because they were obtained, in effect, through trickery.

 

Low told a judge, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks, that the NCIS agent did not read Nelson his rights until midway through the interrogation. Also, Low said, Nelson had just been told by a noncommissioned officer that he had done nothing wrong and thus felt he was free to talk in gruesome detail.

 

It's common in military and civilian courts for defense attorneys to try to keep juries from hearing damaging statements their clients made to the police.

 

But the issue of whether the Marine Corps has protected the legal rights of Marines accused of abuse in Iraq has arisen before.

 

The prosecution of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander in the Haditha case involving the deaths of 24 Iraqis in 2005, may unravel unless the prosecutors succeed in getting an appeals court to overrule a military judge. That judge, Col. Steven Folsom, ruled that the convening authority erred by letting a lawyer involved in the early investigation of the Haditha killings sit in on meetings where the case was discussed.

 

If the Chessani case falls apart, the case against Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad leader whose troops did the killings in Haditha, may also be thrown out on similar grounds.

 

In the Nelson case, Meeks set a hearing for later in the summer to hear arguments.

 

External link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/07/marine-sgt-jerm.html

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