Marine hopes Haditha plea bargain begins his 'redemption'
The attorney for Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich said Monday that the plea bargain ending Wuterich's court-martial in the killing of 24 Iraqis in 2005 hopefully signals “the beginning of his redemption.”
“For the last six years, he has had his name dragged through the mud,” attorney Neal Puckett told the North County Times. “Today, we hope, is the beginning of his redemption.”
Wuterich will plead guilty to a solo count of dereliction of duty. In exchange, prosecutors will drop manslaughter, assault and other dereliction charges.
“No one denies that the events ... were tragic, most of all Frank Wuterich," Puckett said of the Nov. 19, 2005, killings in the town of Haditha. “But the fact of the matter is that he has now been totally exonerated of the homicide charges brought against him by the government and the media."
Among the 24 dead were three women and seven children. No gunman or weapons were found.
"He has always taken responsibility for his and his squad's actions that day," Puckett told the newspaper. "Today's agreement is completely consistent with everything he has said, which is that the decisions he made that day led to an outcome that was tragic and regrettable, but they were not criminal."
Wuterich, 31, a divorced father with custody of three daughters, has been kept on active duty for the duration of the trial. No announcement was made in court about a discharge.
Sentencing is set for Tuesday. The maximum sentence is three months in the brig. The plea bargain has been accepted by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the convening authority.
-- Tony Perry
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, center, arrives for a court session at Camp Pendleton on Friday with his attorneys Neal Puckett, left, and Haytham Faraj. Credit: Gregory Bull / Associated Press