One of the Marines cleared in the killings of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha plans to sue his congressman today for statements he says defamed him and other members of his squad.
Former Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 24, of Canonsburg, will file a civil lawsuit against U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown, who was widely quoted two years ago saying that eight Marines carried out a cold-blooded killing of 24 civilians in the Iraqi town on Nov. 19, 2005.
Charges were later dropped against all but one of the Marines, with a military prosecutor calling allegations against Mr. Sharratt “incredible.”
Noah Geary, a Washington County lawyer representing Mr. Sharratt, said his client will file suit today in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh accusing Mr. Murtha of violating his constitutional rights as well as slander for statements about the Haditha incident. A 1:30 p.m. news conference has been planned to announce the suit.
“He just held innumerable press conferences, just repeatedly kept saying this was cold-blooded murder,” Mr. Geary said of the congressman.
While Mr. Sharratt killed three insurgents, Mr. Geary said, he followed the rules of engagement for combat.
The Haditha incident remains a political flash point in the Iraq War, with critics saying Mr. Murtha, a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, defamed American troops.
Mr. Murtha could not be reached last night and a spokesman did not respond to a message requesting comment.
Murtha won’t talk. But his upstart GOP opponent will:
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Republican candidate in the 12th PA Congressional district Bill Russell commented today on the lawsuit filed against incumbent Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) by a Marine from the district. The suit was filed by LCpl. Justin Sharratt of Canonsburg, PA, in Pittsburgh Federal Court and seeks relief for the stripping of Mr. Sharratt’s Constitutional rights, specifically his right to the presumption of innocence and due process, as well as relief for slander.
The lawsuit was prompted by Murtha’s widely reported comments of Marines at Haditha, Iraq “killing innocent civilians in cold blood.”
“As a career military officer and a 9-11 Pentagon survivor, I have a personal interest in seeing the record and reputations of these courageous Marines cleared,” said Russell. “It is contemptible that any member of Congress abuse the power of his office to advance a political agenda by unjustly attacking our brave men and women in uniform. Lance Corporal Sharratt was declared innocent by a properly convened military court, and he has every right to seek justice for the denial of his Constitutional rights to due process and the presumption of innocence, and for the damage done to his reputation. I sincerely hope that Congressman Murtha will use this opportunity to admit his mistake and take responsibility for the harm his false accusations have done to Justin Sharratt and his family. Justin’s right to justice goes beyond politics. I call upon Congressman Murtha to deal honorably with the Sharratt’s, and not attempt to hide behind election-year rhetoric and the very office whose power he abused to deny them this right”.
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