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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: VILLAGES ATTACKED; HADITHA CASE

Marine may not be put on trial

August 24, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — A hearing officer Thursday recommended that charges be dropped against a Marine lance corporal in connection with the killings of three Iraqi children and three adults in their homes in November 2005.

If Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis accepts the recommendation, it will mean that of four enlisted Marines initially charged with murder in the Haditha incident, only one will still face charges. Lt. Col. Paul Ware, in a report to Mattis, said the evidence against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 26, of Edmond, Okla., was too weak to merit a court-martial.

Ware said evidence showed that Tatum reacted according to his training when other Marines warned of a threat inside two dark, smoky houses being searched for insurgents.

Mattis has already dropped charges against two enlisted Marines in the incident, in which 24 Iraqis were killed. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad leader, faces a preliminary hearing next week. Three officers face dereliction-of-duty charges for not investigating properly.

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