The long, painful ordeal of Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson came to a sudden end Wednesday when a jury of seven fellow Marine officers found him not guilty of trumped-up charges that should never have been leveled against him in the first place.
As Newsmax reported on Sept. 11, 2007, Grayson earned the enmity of prosecutors when he turned down their offer that would spare him from prison if he would agree to testify against fellow 3rd battalion, 1st Marines.
"I was asked by the prosecution to fall on my sword for the greater good of the Marine Corps,'' Grayson, 26, recalled. "The prosecution wanted me to distort the truth to fit their end goal.''
Grayson, a battalion intelligence officer, was among four former officers who were charged with dereliction of duty for allegedly failing to investigate the Nov. 19, 2005, engagement that left 15 Iraqi civilians and eight insurgents dead during a bitter, hard-fought battle in Haditha after an enemy ambush killed a member of the unit.
In Grayson’s case, he was charged with obstruction of justice, two counts of making false official statements, two counts of trying to fraudulently separate from the service, and one count of attempt to deceive by making false statements. Had he been convicted on all counts, he faced up to 20 years in prison.
Four enlisted Marines were first charged with murder, and four officers were charged with allegedly failing to investigate the deaths. As the case wore on, charges were dropped against five of the Marines. With Grayson’s acquittal, only two other defendants, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander, still face courts martial.
The gist of the prosecution’s case is that the deaths of the 15 civilians and eight insurgents were not the result of an ambush which the prosecutors insisted had not occurred despite all the solid evidence that it had, and that Chessani and Grayson had been derelict in their duty by failing to investigate the incident.
During the pretrial questioning of potential jurors, the prosecution tellingly asked the jurors if they had read Newsmax or stories by veteran reporters Phil Brennan and Nat Helms. All denied they had, but any who had admitted they had would undoubtedly have been excused from the panel.
Jurors would have learned that it was a Time magazine story, based entirely on accounts and videos fed to them by known insurgent propaganda agents, that provoked the secretary of the Navy to launch one of the most exhaustive, expensive and fatally flawed investigations in the history of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
As Newsmax reported, the charges of failing to investigate the events of that day were provably false. The entire day's action was not only carefully monitored by battalion intelligence operatives and other officers all the way up the chain of command, but fully reported in excruciating detail in a PowerPoint report sent to higher levels of command that very night.
There was never any doubt about what transpired that day, and it was obvious that there was no need for further investigation.
With the facts on their side, Chessani and Wuterich unveiled the deception created by a fumbled NCIS investigation and a prosecution determined to prove the unprovable no matter how damaging it was to the heroic combat Marines and the morale of Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghantistan.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center which is defending Chessani stated it best: “The government ordered these Marines to the front lines. They ordered them to attack the insurgents . . . Marines, risking their lives, followed those orders without hesitation. Their reward? Criminal prosecution. There must be some righteous person in the chain of command that will say ‘enough is enough.’”
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