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Marine officer won't stand court-martial

Dereliction of duty charges are dropped in the slaying of 24 Iraqis in Haditha by troops under his command.

September 19, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — Dereliction of duty charges have been dismissed against a Marine captain whose troops killed 24 Iraqis in November 2005 after a roadside bomb killed a comrade, the Marine Corps announced Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the Marine Forces Central Command, decided that any of what a statement referred to as "errors or omissions" made by Capt. Lucas M. McConnell would best be handled through an administrative process.

McConnell and three other officers were charged in December with failing to investigate the killings in the Iraqi town of Haditha as a possible war crime.

The administrative process could range from verbal counseling to a letter in McConnell's personnel file. The letter could hurt his chances for promotion or a choice assignment.

McConnell was relieved of duty as commanding officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, during the investigation that led to charges against the four officers and four enlisted Marines. He was not at the scene of the killings.

Mattis has dismissed charges against two officers, McConnell and Capt. Randy Stone, and two enlisted Marines, Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt and Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz.

Mattis is considering recommendations by hearing officers that charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum be dismissed and that Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander, face court-martial.

A hearing officer has yet to forward a recommendation about Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, who was the squad leader when Marines killed five Iraqi men in the street and seven children, three women and nine men in three houses. Charges are also pending against Lt. Andrew A. Grayson.

Mattis has been serving as convening authority in the Haditha case and in other cases of alleged brutality committed by Marines in the Iraqi towns of Hamandiya and Fallouja and in Afghanistan.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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