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Squad leader in Haditha killings discharged from Marine Corps

February 21, 2012 |  6:55 am

Frank Wuterich, who pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty in the killing of 27 unarmed Iraqis in 2005, has been discharged from the Marine CorpsFrank Wuterich, who pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty in the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqis in 2005, has been discharged from the Marine Corps.

Wuterich, 31, received a general discharge under honorable conditions, his attorney, Neal Puckett, told the North County Times.

Such a discharge is one notch below an honorable discharge and does not block Wuterich from any veterans benefits he earned during his years in the Marine Corps. Before he was discharged, Wuterich was demoted from staff sergeant to private.

Wuterich, the last of eight defendants in the 2005 killings in Haditha, Iraq, pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty in exchange for charges of assault and manslaughter being dropped.

Wuterich, acting as a squad leader, gave Marines the order to "shoot first, ask questions later" as they swept through homes in search of insurgents who had detonated a roadside bomb, killing one Marine and injuring two. Among the Iraqis killed were three women and eight children.

The plea bargain in the case was approved by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Forces Central Command.

The trial judge recommended that Wuterich serve three months in the brig, but Waldhauser ruled that Wuterich should not serve any time behind bars.

The plea bargain came Jan. 23, midway through Wuterich's court-martial at Camp Pendleton.

Wuterich had been kept on active duty while his case was being handled by the military justice system. His discharge was expected.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Frank Wuterich. Credit: Associated Press

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