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July 19th, 2010 - Top Marine Officer Charged in Haditha Killings is Forced into Retirement

News article from the Los Angeles Times

Summary of the Haditha Massacre

Top Marine Officer Charged in Haditha Killings is Forced into Retirement

 

By Tony Perry

Los Angeles Times

July 19, 2010

 

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking of the eight Camp Pendleton Marines charged in the 2005 killings of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, has been forced into retirement, his lawyers said Monday.

 

Chessani's last day on active duty was Friday, according to the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center, which called the occasion "a sad day for America and the Marine Corps."

 

In June, the secretary of the Navy upheld a ruling by a Board of Inquiry at Camp Pendleton that found Chessani was not guilty of misconduct but had shown "substandard' performance and should be required to retire.

 

The Board of Inquiry was convened after a military appeals court upheld the trial judge's ruling to dismiss criminal charges against Chessani because of the appearance of "undue command influence" in the case.

 

Chessani was commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment on Nov. 19, 2005, when troops under his command killed five civilians in the street and 19 in three houses in a fruitless search for the insurgents who had planted a roadside bomb that had just killed a Marine.

 

Chessani was not at the scene of the killings nor did he give the fateful order to "clear" the houses near the bomb explosion. But he was charged with failure to conduct a thorough investigation.

 

All but one of the Marines charged have been exonerated or had charges dropped. The squad leader, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, faces a possible court-martial in September.

 

Chessani was on his third combat tour in Iraq. Before the Haditha killings, he had a string of top-notch evaluations and seemed destined for promotion and greater responsibility.

 

External link: http://tinyurl.com/2wcpdqk

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