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California Briefing / RIVERSIDE

Charges against Marines dropped

September 26, 2008|TONY PERRY

A federal judge officially dismissed contempt of court charges Thursday against two Marines who refused to testify in the trial of a former Marine sergeant, who was acquitted last month in the killing of four Iraqi prisoners.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson formally dropped the criminal charges against Sgt. Ryan Weemer and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson after federal prosecutors last week dropped their bid to have the two jailed for contempt of court.

Despite reassurances from Larson that their testimony could not be used against them in their upcoming courts-martial at Camp Pendleton, the two refused to testify against former Sgt. Jose Nazario. Both face murder charges in the incident, which occurred in November 2004 in Fallouja.

Nazario, 28, was the first former member of the military tried in civilian court under the little-known Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act for crimes allegedly committed during combat. He had returned to civilian life and was a probationary police officer in Riverside when the case arose, so he could not be tried in the court-martial system.

-- Tony Perry

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