Haditha Cover-Up: Murtha Deposition Nixed

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2008 02:19 PM

By Phil Brennan

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As the Haditha Marines case proceeds, defense lawyers find roadblocks that are worrisome.

Various charges stem from the now-infamous Nov. 19, 2005 Haitha, Iraq incident where a firefight ensued after Marines were ambushed. There were 14 casualties — including one Marine. The insurgents, hiding amongst women and children in civilian homes, caused the death of 15 civilians as the Marines fought back.

The latest roadblock has defense lawyers arguing that they cannot fully defend one of the Marines, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, because they are being denied the opportunity to obtain testimony from Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

The defense contends that prosecutors are trying to make it impossible for the heroic Marine officer to get a fair trial.

[Editor's Note: Help Our Hero Marines — Click Here Now.]

“Military judge Colonel Stephen Folsom’s ruling yesterday refusing our request to take the deposition of Congressman John Murtha is the latest indication that it will be impossible for Lieutenant Colonel Chessani to get a fair trial regarding [the] Haditha incident,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based law firm defending Chessani.

“This entire prosecution is politically motivated and stinks to high heaven," Thompson said. "Denying us the right to take Murtha’s deposition so that we could show undue command influence, as well as denial of our request for production of documents in the possession of Chessani’s superiors makes it impossible for us to render this loyal Marine officer the effective assistance of counsel he deserves — they are attempting to throw him under the bus. In many ways this is a trial like the one in 'Alice in Wonderland' — the verdict first and then the trial.”

Vowing to fight back Thompson added, “In the next couple of weeks, we will reveal startling facts tracing the impetus for this prosecution to the highest levels of military and civilian command.

"We remain undaunted despite these latest rulings. We will continue to vigorously defend Lieutenant Colonel Chessani against this politically-driven prosecution. At least one more motion hearing is scheduled in April, and we intend to file several more motions that will be argued during that time.”

Chessani, one of the Marine Corps' most highly praised combat commanders, is charged with “dereliction of duty” and “orders” violations stemming from the terrorist attack in the once insurgent-laden town of Haditha, Iraq. At the time, Chessani was battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment — one of the most decorated battalions in our nation’s history.

An investigation of the incident was launched, sparked by a Time magazine story based on claims from known insurgent propagandists, months before the investigation was completed,

Murtha made the rounds on TV news programs claiming erroneously that there was no firefight in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, and that the Marines killed innocent Iraqi civilians in “cold blood” and officers “covered it up.”

Murtha publicly stated he received his information from the highest levels of the Marine command — this statement in itself is enough to cause a dismissal of the charges because of undue command influence, according to representatives from the Thomas More Law Center.

The Center stressed that Murtha, the same person caught on tape negotiating bribes with Arab Sheiks during the FBI’s 1980 Abscam investigation "holds significant influence over military appropriations and in the past has boasted he can get the Pentagon to do what he wants." Moreover, the Center added, "The Haditha incident provided ammunition for his well known anti-war stance.

According to the Center's Brian Rooney, a Marine captain who served in Fallujah during the bloody battle to wrest the city from al-Qaida, Murtha also has ties to Navy Secretary Donald Winters who had over 65 NCIS investigators assigned to investigate Chessani and the Marines charged in the case. The NCIS director claimed that to be the highest number of investigators assigned to a case in the history of the NCIS.

Chessani, one of America’s most effective combat commanders in Iraq, now faces dismissal (an officer’s equivalent of a dishonorable discharge), loss of retirement, and imprisonment of up to three years. The actual court-martial trial is scheduled to begin April 28, 2008.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services.

[Editor's Note: Help Our Hero Marines — Click Here Now.]

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