Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson has been ordered to stand general court-martial for unpremeditated murder and dereliction of duty during combat at Fallujah, Iraq more than three years ago.
Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, referred charges against Nelson Monday for the alleged unlawful killing of an unknown unarmed detained person during combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. Prosecutors say that Nelson and two other members of his squad shot four unarmed prisoners captured during a fight to wrest the city from insurgent control.
Nelson, 26, originally from New York, was with the Kilo Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at the time. He was charged after making two confessions to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent, Mark Fox, in the spring of 2006. Nelson made the statements after waiving his right to legal counsel, the preamble to his taped confessions show.
In two chilling accounts, Nelson told Fox he shot the unknown man on orders from Sgt. Jose L. Nazario, the squad leader in 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company that he was attached to on the opening day of the Battle of Fallujah.
Nazario faces trial on July 8 for two counts of voluntary manslaughter related to the same incident.
If convicted Nelson faces a dishonorable discharge and life imprisonment.
Three other prisoners were also killed that morning in Nelson’s presence, he confessed to Fox. The killings allegedly occurred a few hours after Kilo Company begin its attack on the ancient “City of Mosques” fortified by an al-Qaida-led insurgent army on Nov. 9, 2004.
Two others prisoners allegedly died under the gun of Nazario, Nelson told Fox. The former Riverside, Calif. police officer was charged in federal court with two counts of voluntary manslaughter last August.
Another Iraqi was allegedly shot to death by Sgt. Ryan Weemer, at the time a corporal in 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company. Nelson claims Weemer shot an elderly Iraqi man numerous times with his pistol.
Weemer was recalled to active duty from the reserves in March to face murder charges he inadvertently initiated more than two years.
Weemer revealed the incident during a job interview for a uniformed Secret Service position in Washington, D.C. in 2006, he said. The allegations came to light when Weemer told federal investigators he had witnessed the unlawful killings while serving under Nazario in Iraq.
After his revelations were passed on to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in late 2006 it began a 14-month investigation into the alleged killings.
Fox’s conclusions are offered in his affidavit filed in support of the complaint against Nazario last August. Basically Fox concluded that Nazario — in the heat of combat — killed two prisoners in retaliation for the death of his friend Lance Cpl. Juan Segura. He believes Nelson and Weemer killed two other prisoners.
Nazario denies the event happened and Weemer initially claimed that he was merely a witness to the incident. He has not made a public statement about the event since the possibility of criminal charges boiled up last summer.
Several other former Kilo Company Marines anticipate they will face criminal charges for their still unspecified roles in the burgeoning Fallujah debacle. The Marine Corps is still trying to determine who gave the reported order to Nazario, Marine and defense lawyers familiar with the charges say.
The Marine Corps says Lt. Gen. Helland made his decision after consideration of information developed from investigations by NCIS investigators, as well as evidence produced during an Article 32 investigation hearing.
The convening date for the court-martial will be announced when it is established, according to a press release issued from Camp Pendleton on Wednesday.
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