June 17, 2008

Charges Tossed Against Haditha Commander

Charges filed against a U.S. Marine officer for failing to report the Haditha killings in Iraq were dismissed Tuesday on grounds of unlawful command influence.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani was charged with dereliction of duty and violating orders for allegedly failing to investigate and report the so-called Haditha Massacre of Nov. 19, 2005, in which 24 Iraqis died in a house-to-house battle.

The charges were dismissed by a military judge without prejudice, the Family Security Matters publication reported. Prosecutors have 72 hours to notify U.S.Marine Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom if they plan to appeal.

Chessani was the highest ranking officer charged in the Haditha incident. He would have faced dismissal from the service, loss of retirement benefits and three years in prison if convicted.

Richard Thompson, who represented Chessani, said the defense team and his client were grateful for the military judge's ruling.

Tragically, our own government eliminated one of its most effective combat commanders, Thompson said. The insurgents are laughing in their caves.