by Nathaniel R. Helms
February 15, 2008 --
The chief prosecutor in the case against Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich
has been replaced by Major Daren C. Erickson, a Camp Pendleton-based
career Marine lawyer. Lt Col Sean Sullivan, a reservist from Chicago,
led the government’s case against Wuterich since the 27-year old
infantryman was initially charged with perpetrating a massacre in
Haditha, Iraq more than two years ago.
Mark Zaid, civilian
co-counsel for Wuterich, confirmed the change
Staff Sergeant Wuterich
currently stands accused of 12 counts of voluntary manslaughter, as
well as aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty
and obstruction of justice. On Monday the government unilaterally
granted immunity to Lance Corporal Stephan Tatum to testify against
Wuterich at his general court-martial next month. To ensure that there
was no appearance of impropriety in the arrangement; Sullivan had to
go, according to several defense lawyers.
Sullivan spearheaded the
prosecution of Wuterich since he was charged in December 2006
following allegations his squad massacred 24 Iraqi civilians at
Haditha more than two years ago. Sullivan’s two-fisted approach to
convicting Wuterich has left more than one defense attorney crying
Last August Sullivan apologized after accusing defense attorney Maj.
Haytham Faraj of unethical conduct during Wuterich’s Article 32
hearing at Camp Pendleton. He later raised the ire of the defense when
they discovered one of his star witnesses against Wuterich had managed
to get transferred from Camp Pendleton to a reserve battalion in
Major Erickson has been
connected with the Haditha case before, having been lead prosecutor in
the Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt case. Prior to that, he earned a
modicum of fame during an Article 32 investigation at Twentynine
Palms, California in February 2004 while defending a reserve gunnery
sergeant accused of making false statements to the military that
damaged the reputation of the Marine Corps.
being arrested the defendant told the Las Vegas Review Journal
he had tracked down and executed two Iraqi Republican Guards after
they attacked his unit on combat operations in Iraq.
Erickson maintained that because of his client’s poor health he
shouldn't be held responsible “for the story he told the
Review-Journal, or variations of the double-execution he repeated
to military personnel in the days after the article was published”,
according to a February 24, 2004 story in the Review Journal.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
15 February 2008
Note: Nat Helms is a Contributing Editor to Defend Our
Marines. He is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, war
correspondent, and, most recently, author of
My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007).