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Judge frees 2 Marines from jail

California Briefing | RIVERSIDE

July 04, 2008|Tony Perry

A federal judge Thursday ordered two Marines released from jail despite their refusal to testify before a grand jury probing the alleged killing of four Iraqi prisoners by Marines during the battle for Fallouja in late 2004.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson said that Sgt. Jermaine Nelson and Sgt. Ryan Weemer are still in contempt of court, but that keeping them behind bars was futile. Their lawyers had argued that they would never testify before the grand jury, which in particular is looking at the actions of former Sgt. Jose Nazario.

Nelson and Weemer face charges in military court relating to the alleged killing of prisoners. Both had expressed concern that their testimony could be used by military prosecutors. Nelson also refused to testify because Nazario saved his life in Iraq.

Nazario faces manslaughter charges in federal court. He was no longer on active duty when the Fallouja investigation began. By law, the U.S. attorney has authority to charge ex-military personnel for alleged crimes committed during their service.

Weemer had been in the San Bernardino jail since June 12, Nelson since June 24. Nelson had earlier spent eight days in jail before being released by a judge in Los Angeles.

Joseph Low, Nelson's attorney, said Larson should be praised for taking into account "the service that these Marines have given to their country."

The jailing of the two had infuriated some active-duty and retired Marines.

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-- Tony Perry

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