An attorney for a Marine officer charged with failure to investigate the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha accused the Marine Corps Wednesday of "eating its own" and aiding terrorist propaganda.
Civilian defense attorney Brian Rooney told reporters outside an Article 32 hearing for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani that "the terrorists are laughing in our face," and contended the charges against four Marine officers and three enlisted men are the result of the terrorists' propaganda campaign.
"The Marine Corps is eating its own," Rooney said. "It will be a very robust Article 32 from our standpoint."
An Article 32 hearing is equivalent to a civilian preliminary hearing.
Chessani, 43, was on his third tour of duty in Iraq when the 24 Iraqi civilians were killed on Nov. 19, 2005.
He was battalion commander of the squad that killed five men emerging from a car and 19 people in several homes after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two other Marines.
Chessani, who is charged with two counts of dereliction of duty and one count of violating a lawful order, faces three years in prison and dismissal from the service if convicted on all three counts.
The government was "wrong-headed" in filing charges against his client, Rooney said, calling the charges "warrantless."
Rooney said it was "devastating" for Chessani to be relieved of his command after 19 years of service in the Marine Corps.
"His career's over," Rooney said.
Chessani reported the killings properly up the chain of command, and looked into what happened that day on three occasions, Rooney said.
"Our position is that nobody should have been charged at the officer level," Rooney said.
Marine Lt. Max Frank, testifying under a grant of immunity via video deposition, said he was ordered to move the bodies of the Iraqi civilians in Haditha.
He said he had no reason to believe there was any wrongdoing by the Marines.
Frank said not one Marine at the death scenes said to him, "How could this have happened?"
He said he believed the killings had been reported up the chain of command, so he did not suggest an investigation.
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