Story number nine is a holdover from the #1 story in 2008, the legal aftermath of the Haditha incident. In 2009 the Marine Corps finally determined the fate of LtCol Jeffrey Chessani after nearly 3 years of investigations, trials and administrative hearings.
The year began with the fate of LtCol Chessani’s court-martial still resting in the hands of NMCCA on an Art. 62 appeal. In the appeal, which took nine months to resolve, the government took issue with the military judge’s dismissal, without prejudice, of charges against LtCol Chessani based on unlawful command influence. Chessani’s counsel had the luck of the Irish and on March 17, 2009, see here and here, NMCCA held that the military judge had not erred in finding unlawful command influence, but had erred in disqualifying the Joint Forces Command (Gen Mattis’ new command) members other than General Mattis, the original convening authority. NMCCA then quickly denied the government’s request for rehearing en banc, see here and here, and left the government to decide to certify the issues or send the case back for a new referral. The government chose to do neither.
Ultimately LtCol Chessani went before a Marine Corps show cause hearing, CAAFlog coverage here and here. As reported by the Marine Corps Times here, his board of inquiry met for six days before determining that LtCol Chessani “demonstrated substandard performance of duty, but did not commit any acts of misconduct” and should retire as a LtCol.
While 2009 resolved the final officer case from the Haditha incident, the incident will remain in the news as squad leader SSgt Frank Wuterich’s court-martial still remains to be scheduled after much delay resulting from the government’s attempts to secure unaired interviews with SSgt Wuterich by 60 Minutes, latest news here. Maybe the Haditha incident will get the trifecta and make the 2010 top stories?