Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, accused of killing unarmed Iraqi women and children in 2005 in Haditha, Iraq, reached a plea deal on Monday, ending the prosecutions from that incident.
Al Jazeera reports:
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, the commander of a marine unit whose other members have been exonerated, entered his plea as part of a deal with military prosecutors in which more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed.
Wuterich was initially charged with murder.
A sentencing hearing will be held on Tuesday, said a spokesman for Camp Pendleton, south of Los Angeles.
"Staff Sergeant Wuterich accepted responsibility ... and agreed and admits that he gave a verbal order to shoot first, ask questions later, or don't hesitate to shoot, and words to that effect," said spokesman Joe Koppel.
"That verbal instruction caused his marines to [not] positively identify targets in the two homes. And now, at the sentencing phase, he'll be held accountable for those actions."
The victims included 10 women and children killed at point-blank range. Six people were killed in one house, most shot in the head, including women and children huddled in a bedroom.
The other seven soldiers charged in the case had been exonerated through various legal rulings, fuelling anger in Iraq, where authorities had pushed for US troops to be subject to Iraqi justice before the US pullout in December.
Of the other seven Marines charged with the now-notorious massacre, one was acquitted and six had their charges dismissed. Wuterich’s attorneys have been confident throughout the ordeal that he would see a similar outcome. "He's going to be glad to have it over because he knows that he'll be exonerated," lawyer Neal Puckett told National Public Radio earlier this month.
On November 19, 2005, Wuterich led a squad of men into two separate homes in the town of Haditha and opened fire on everyone in sight. Prosecutors say that a roadside bomb exploded moments before the Marines stormed the home, and were brought into hysterics by seeing a fellow soldier die in the attack. In response, they went on a rampage and for 45 minutes raided the two homes and were never faced with gunfire. Wuterich later said he instructed his team to “shoot first and ask questions later.”
The Associated Press adds this telling piece:
After Haditha, US marine commanders ordered troops to try and distinguish between civilians and combatants.
Al Jazeera has video on the plea deal: