From CNN, here:

A U.S. military judge sentenced a Marine squad leader charged with alleged war crimes in Iraq to a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank.

But because of a plea deal with prosecutors, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich won’t serve any time in the brig. The military judge was obligated to abide by the plea arrangement between prosecutors and the defense.

In the end, Wuterich’s sentence amounts to a reduction in rank — to private — and a pay cut.

So ends the Haditha cases . . . or at least until a creative Appellate Defense counsel gets a hold of the plea record in the next decade or so.   I would imagine the next step is some sort of mandatory high year tenure separation proceeding stripping SSgt (Pvt) Wuterich of benefits.

UPDATED:  A couple of additional reactions from the US’s rule of law protege countries, here.

15 Responses to “Wuterich Gets Max Under Plea Deal, Won’t Do Brig Time”

  1. JWS says:

    Patton was right.  I still think Lew Walt would not have hung me out to dry like this.

  2. PT says:

    A mando HYT separation proceeding that strips a service member of his benefits?  Please provide a few more details on this process to those of us new to the MilJus system.

  3. Peanut Gallery says:

    Will this even get to an appellate defense counsel?  I don’t see where it hits the Jx threshold. 

  4. Cheap Seats says:

    PT – just spit-balling here, but my guess is that the Marine Corps must now separate him for being past his End of Obligated Service.  Because of how long this case has dragged on, it is unlikely that Pvt Wuterich is in a current enlistment.  He has likely been held past his contract.  As such, the Government must now let him go.  As such, he may keep significant rights as he is likely to receive either an Honorable or General Discharge.
    Peanut Gallery – well, he’ll get a 69 appeal.  He had a civilian counsel at trial, perhaps he’ll have one on appeal.

  5. Michael Lowrey says:

    Some of the news coverage I’ve read also says that Wuterich is past the end of his contract.

  6. Mike says:

    Someone should let CNN know that he entered into a plea deal with his command – not with prosecutors.  Minor detail but irksome to me when CNN gets stuff like that wrong.

  7. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    @CS and ML–You know, that’s a good question.  What are the military’s options to separate someone being held for court-martial if they are not discharged at court-martial but reduced well below any HYT limits?  As for appellate defense counsel, like CS said, we’ll see what a creative counsel comes up with on Art. 69 review. 

  8. Cheap Seats says:

    I’ll let the Marines answer this question, but MARCORPSEPMAN (P-1900.16F) para 1008 (2) seems to imply he is discharged by EAOS and not conduct.  See also para 6210(6) – NOT serious offense for discharge purposes.

  9. ADSEP? says:

    Old memory cells, but if I recall, PTA provisions requiring an accused to waive an admin board (and face an OTH at the disretion of the sep authority) have been upheld even if the accused is past his EAS so long as the provision reflects the accused’s lack of objection to be held on active duty for fulfillment of that portion of the PTA.   Any one know there was a board waiver in this PTA? 

  10. Stu Couch says:

    I’m really dusting off my brain cells here, but I think Cheap Seats is correct.  My recollection is that unless he agreed to a Separation In Lieu of Trial (SILT), which he obviously has not, he is limited to an Honorable or a General Under Honorable Conditions characterization of service because he was held past his EOS for trial.  The facts behind his GCM conviction are not the basis for separation, but his EOS is.  I could be wrong.

  11. Tami says:

    It looks like the characterization of his discharge for EAOS will depend on his fitness reports.  Good/average fitness reports = honorable, below average = general under honorable conditions.  OTH is not authorized.

  12. Charlie Gittins says:

    An OTH is not authorized because he is held past his EAOS.  He will get, or he will end up, awarded by the BCNR, an Honorable discharge.  He is entitled to a “type warranted by service record” characterization of discharge.  Negligent dereliction of duty is an simple disorder (3 months max, no BCD authorized).  With the MJ knowing there was a PTA to negligent dereliction, he was fully protected to impose a maximum sentence — he would “look strong” on  good order and discipline knowing that the G had folded on the least significant charge they could agree to and there must be some sentence limitation that would protect the accused.  It was a no lose for the MJ — no courage in his decision — sentence to the max and see what the Defense extracted from the Government in a case where the G has essentially proved the defense.  That this went to trial is an embarrassment to the hundreds of years of prosecutors who have sought justice.  At the end of the day, one conviction of negligent dereliction of duty; all other charges against enlisted personnel dismissed or resulted in qcquittal; Bn CD– charges dismissed; Battalion JA– charges dismissed.  Commander MARFORCENT — committed UCI — no charges and no ; 2d MARADIV, Secretarial Letter of Censure.  Chief of Staff, 2d MARDIV, Secrdisciplineetarial Letter of Censure; Regimental Commander:  Secretarial Letter of Censure.  Does anyone beyond me see the picture here?  E’s get prosecuted; O’s walk, notwithstanding how jacked up they may be.  I say again, a GO or Colonel court-martial is likely to bring the world into focus for the dudes who think they are untouchable.

    Yeah, I hate to be the guy who keeps reminding us of these facts.  But they are the facts. 

  13. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Charlie, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t there one colonel court -martial in the Haditha cases (Chessani) or are you using Colonel with a capital C only? You’d think a LtCol court-martial would snap some heads around.

    In any event, I would differ on this whole thing being an embarrassment because of the outcomes. I think the case revealed some real flaws in how we planned for “war” when there was no battlefield and the people we were trying to save were living beside the people we were trying to kill. Applying wartime rules in those situations had some real consequences, not the least of which is it in part fed the insurgency that ultimately cost Marines there lives. That’s the real tragedy of Haditha.

  14. Charlie Gittins says:


    Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Chessani’s case got dismissed.  In any event, he was the lowest O on the totem pole and, based on the evidence I saw, was no more culpable than the Bn JA.  There was no conviction, after all.   The regiment told the Bn what they “needed to know” and after that it was all about guys doing briefings with big red shoes and squeaky red noses for the General. There was a regimental JA who received transactional immunity.  Doesn’t that tell you something?  Is he really still on active duty?  Really?  

    I totally get it re: the war — we were trying to save the peeps living next door to the terrorists — that is a failed policy decision.  Once the shooting started with a dead Marine in Haditha, all bets were off; it was all about Americans living and bad guys dying and I have to tell you, there is no amount of dead non-Americans  that I would trade for one dead Marine.   That is just me and my experience dealing with terrorist fucks trying to kill our peeps.  If you feel differently, that is cool, but I doubt most LCPLS would agree. 

    Our war planning was a total embarrassment and this case helped to expose it.  We created after-the-fact rules of engagement to address Haditha and the prosecution tried to apply the ex post facto rules to what our troops had been told at the time.  The P JAs are criminals in my mind; they tried to commit a fraud by applying later ROA to the events in Haditha.  At the time of Haditha, Marines were trained to conduct a a house clearing by throwing a grenade in the room and spraying the room with bullets.  That the procedure later changed is fine, but the P’s tried to argue that you had to P’ID before shooting and that was just NOT true, as numerous officer and senior enlisted witnesses testified on cross examination during the G case in chief.   Arguing to the contrary, in my opinion, is trying to perpetrate a fraud on the court.  In a perfect world, the P’s would stand trial for dereliction of duty.  But they saved themselves by negotiating an agreement that salvaged a conviction, even if it was totally bogus and everyone knows it.

    Haditha was a bad deal, but the terrorists brought it on themselves.  They chose the place; they chose the manner.   It is unfortunate that innocents died, but that is war and it is a war they chose to seek in a time and place in their own country.  


  15. JWS says:

    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
    But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

    Col. Gittins: 
    Thank you kindly for letting us know the considerations that likely gave rise to acceptance of the plea.  As a lawyer, I can see the appeal to Wuterich.  I suspect he has long ago concluded his Marine Corps has forsaken him and sees no reason to stay.  He has 3 kids to look after.  As a Marine, I am heartsick.  Of course, my combat time was as an NCO in the RVN long ago.
    I suspect y’all are tired of me constantly mentioning unit cohesion — I recall some comment a while back to the effect the troops did not see or know how a Marine was mistreated.  I hate to disillusion y’all, but … the troops see & hear.  This case will adversely affect every NCO & SNCO for at least a generation.  Guys, unit cohesion is the central problem: almost everything is possible with good unit cohesion; almost nothing is possible without it. Prosecuting guys like SSgt Wuerich is a fast way to destroy what took a generation to restore.
    You officer-types just assume “follow me” is all you need to say [OK, I exaggerate — that’s not what my nephew (soon-to-be 2nd Lt USMCR) is being taught].  “Follow me” ain’ta gonna work when the troops know they’ll be hung out to dry when bad things happen.  Again, Patton’s famous aphorism comes to mind.
    The fact is, evil men deliberately — & with evil intent — made war among innocents.  It is THEY who are guilty.  The GO’s & SJA (especially the guy who advised Gen Mattis) need to accept the combat realities are created  by the bad guys — and the bad guys are morally responsible for the outcomes.  The solution is to find & kill the bad guys.
    God save my Marine Corps, this country, and all who abide with us. Lord knows no one else will.