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Haditha Watch: Charges dismissed against Lt. Col. Chessani

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 17, 2008 12:53 PM

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Fight the smears. Call John “Cold-blooded” Murtha for comment: 202-225-2065.

Note: As of 1:40pm Eastern, you will not find the Haditha story on the front page of the NYTimes website.

Read much, much more from Chessani’s defense team at the Thomas More Law Center.
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Told you to watch out for this yesterday. Here it is. Paging John Murtha, paging John Murtha. Paging the NYT, paging the NYT:

A military judge has dismissed charges against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges Tuesday against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after defense attorneys raised concerns that a four-star general overseeing the prosecution was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice…

And then there was one:

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(Graphic via Defend Our Marines)

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Background from Chessani’s legal team at the Thomas More Law Center:

In May 2008, Col Folsom ruled that he found evidence of unlawful command influence (UCI). Courts consider UCI the mortal enemy of military justice. The judge’s finding was based upon the evidence that Generals Mattis and Helland, who controlled the disposition of LtCol Chessani’s case, were impermissibly influenced by Marine lawyer Col John Ewers, one of the initial investigators of the Haditha. Col Ewers was permitted to attend at least and up to 25 closed-session meetings in which LtCol Chessani’s case was discussed.

As a result of that ruling, the burden shifted to prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the facts alleged by the defense are untrue; (2) the facts alleged do not constitute unlawful command influence; or (3) the unlawful command influence will not affect the proceedings. In short, court decisions on unlawful command influence require the military judge to avoid even the “appearance of this evil” in his courtroom.

To meet their burden, prosecutors presented the testimony of General Mattis and Col Ewers. Conspicuously absent was the testimony of General Helland.

Col Folsom asked what remedies to the UCI problem both sides recommended. Robert Muise, one of the TMLC defense attorneys, asked the military judge to dismiss the case with prejudice (meaning the case could not be recharged against LtCol Chessani). The prosecution asked for a less severe remedy.

The crucial Unlawful Command Influence motion (click here for Motion), which was the focus of this week’s hearing, was filed by the Thomas More Law Center.

Law Center attorneys Robert Muise and Brian Rooney, both former Marines, wrote and argued the Unlawful Command Influence motion on which yesterday’s decision is based. The two TMLC attorneys, along with two detailed Marine lawyers, LtCol Jon Shelburne and Captain Jeffrey King, are defending LtCol Chessani.

The criminal charges against LtCol Chessani stem from a house-to-house, room-by-room battle four of his enlisted Marines engaged in on November 19, 2005 after being ambushed by insurgents in the town of Haditha, Iraq. Even though LtCol Chessani immediately reported the events of that day to his superiors, including the death of 15 noncombatant civilians caught in the crossfire, nobody in LtCol Chessani’s chain of command believed there was any wrongdoing on behalf of the Marines.

However, months later, a Time magazine story instigated by an insurgent propaganda agent, caused Pentagon officials to order the largest investigation in the history of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS). As a result, LtCol Chessani, now faces dismissal (an officer’s equivalent of a dishonorable discharge), loss of retirement, and imprisonment of up to 3 years.

On June 4, 2008, First Lieutenant Andrew Grayson, USMC, was acquitted by a jury of his peers of all charges related to the Haditha incident. He made comments about LtCol Jeffrey Chessani, who is now one of only two remaining defendants in the Haditha cases, saying he was “one of the most steadfast men… He led by example and he knew the difference between right and wrong.” LtCol Chessani is being defended by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Yesterday: Haditha Watch: The fate of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani

June 5: Haditha Marine Lt. Andrew Grayson acquitted

March 28: Case dropped against Haditha defendant Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum

Charges dropped against Capt. Lucas McConnell

Charges recommended dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum

Charges dropped against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt

Charges dropped against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz

Let Freedom Ring reviews the Murtha Marine-smearing timeline.

Everything else you need to know is at Defend Our Marines.

Flashback: September 2007…Jason Mattera corners cut-and-run Murtha on his Haditha smears…

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Categories: Haditha, John Murtha, Keith Olbermann

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