Prosecutor Seeks to Bar Key Haditha Witness

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2008 11:23 AM

By Phil Brennan

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A key witness in the upcoming court-marshal of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich should not be allowed to testify in Wuterich’s behalf, the prosecutor claims in a motion filed in the Haditha Marines case.

Wuterich, 27, is being tried for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the killings of 24 Iraqi citizens in the town of Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, shortly after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy, killing the driver of a Humvee and wounding two other Marines.

Maj. Jeffrey Dinsmore, who was the battalion intelligence officer of Wuterich’s unit, has previously revealed that, based on his intelligence briefings, Wuterich and his fellow Kilo Company Marines had been forewarned of a possible insurgent ambush and alerted as to what to look for — in particular a white sedan.

But prosecutor Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan is contending that there is no proof Wuterich and his men were so forewarned.

Dinsmore told Newsmax: “Basically, [Sullivan’s] contention is that my procedures of intelligence dissemination could not guarantee that Frank would know enemy TTP's [tactics, techniques, and procedures], the existence of the white sedan on the BOLO [Be On the Lookout for] list, or the intelligence that indicated that an attack was imminent.

“The legal logic goes that if I didn't look Frank in the eye and give him the Intel personally, then there is no proof he ever knew it, and it is irrelevant to his specific charges. The burden of the defense is to establish the ‘chain of custody’ of information, and to prove that my daily information and warnings reached down to the squad level.”

In a deposition given to Sullivan on March 26, 2007, Maj. Dinsmore testified that his briefings to Wuterich’s unit included information about insurgent TTPs, and warnings about the anticipated appearance of the white car during the ambush.

Wuterich is accused of killing the five occupants of a white car that came on the scene at the time of the attack.

The briefings also warned about the need not to go into suspect structures “soft” — without clearing them first with grenades and gunfire as required in the rules of engagement then in place.

Dinsmore said intelligence about Haditha was received “on about 17 November, prior to the attack, in which Weapons Company conducted an operation down in Albu Hyatt, and they had intelligence reports that Syrians were planning a major operation in Haditha.”

Dinsmore, a decorated up-from-the ranks officer, monitored the day’s action in Haditha via radio reports and a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle he used to follow the action from above. He filed a report providing full details of combat up the chain of command that very night.

His testimony about the attack warning could be crucial to the defense because Wuterich contends he was acting under proper rules of engagement when he ordered his men to assault several houses, which they cleared with grenades and gunfire.

According to Maj. Dinsmore, Sullivan's motion will likely “focus on the mechanics of how I made sure Sgt. Wuterich received and understood the information — white sedan, enemy TTPs, etc.

“I see the motion like this: When Lt. Col. Sullivan came to my office last year, raided the classified material safe, and seized the materials that I was using to aid the defense … we discussed again what my doubts were about the government's intentions. I openly doubted his ability or willingness to ensure all information was researched and reviewed, even that information that might eliminate his case.

“He was incredulous that I would doubt his willingness to do that. I pled with him to do so. He made a point of giving me his word as an honorable man and as a Marine that he would lay open all information, and if he found information that could potentially exonerate these Marines, he would personally take it to the convening authority and ensure it was seen. This motion doesn't quite live up to that word, as far as I can see.”

Mark Zaid, one of Wuterich’s civilian attorneys told Newsmax: “I can’t imagine that Dinsmore’s testimony won’t be allowed. Major Dinsmore’s testimony is an important piece of the puzzle and I can understand why the prosecution wouldn’t want anyone to know about it. But the fact is that his information about insurgent tactics was conveyed directly to the men … who engaged in battle in Haditha.”

Sullivan, a reserve Marine officer with no combat experience, is a Chicago lawyer who specializes in patent and trademark law, according to his law firm’s Internet site.

Nat Helms, author of the recent book “My Men are Heroes,” has written extensively about Haditha. He said: “Sullivan, who is prosecuting Wuterich, may eventually face some heat of his own for how and why star prosecution witness [Lance Cpl.] Humberto Mendoza managed to get transferred to Sullivan’s Chicago-based reserve unit as a driver after he was granted immunity.

“The defense also wants to know if Sullivan intervened in making [non-U.S. citizen] Mendoza’s immigration problems disappear.

“And finally, the defense wants to know if Mendoza’s lawyers allowed their client to be interviewed by prosecutors hunting for a ‘perfect witness’ before they decided to grant him immunity and provide him the alleged benefits of serving in Chicago instead of staying at Camp Pendleton where he was easily accessible.”

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