Marine Given Immunity
to Testify Against His Former
Squad Leader in Federal Court
by Nathaniel R. Helms |
May 15, 2008
Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson has been ordered to testify against
a former squad leader charged in federal court with killing two Iraqi
prisoners at Fallujah, Iraq in return for testimonial immunity.
Nelson, charged by the Marine Corps with unpremeditated murder and
dereliction of duty, has been ordered to testify against former
Sergeant Jose L Nazario at a federal Grand Jury hearing evidence
against him in Riverside, Calif.
current federal rules anything Nelson reveals that is not already in
the hands of federal prosecutors cannot be used against him at his own
court-martial, a lawyer defending Nazario said.
Nazario was a Riverside police officer until being arrested and
charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter for allegedly
killing two of four enemy combatants his squad captured at Fallujah on
November 9, 2004. He was arrested on August 7, 2007, three weeks
before completing his probationary period.
government is seeking to enhance the voluntary manslaughter charges
against Nazario to murder. Nelson is the only reputed eyewitness to
the alleged incident. Nazario is currently scheduled to stand trial on
July 8 in the US District Court for Central California in Riverside,
according to his defense attorney Kevin B. McDermott.
Gen. Samuel Helland, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central
Command, referred charges against Nelson Monday for allegedly killing
of “an unknown unarmed detained person” during the same incident.
Prosecutors say that Nelson and two other members of his squad shot
the four unarmed prisoners during the opening hours of the month-long
“Nelson is weighing whether to accept immunity or take a contempt
citation,” McDermott said.
Nelson, 26, and Nazario, 28, were both assigned to Kilo Company 3rd
Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at the time. Nelson was charged after
making two confessions to Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special
Agent Mark Fox in the spring of 2007. Nelson made the statements after
waiving his right to legal counsel, the preamble to his taped
told Fox he shot an unknown insurgent on orders from Nazario after his
squad leader received the order to do so over his inter-squad radio.
Nazario was indicted by a federal Grand Jury two weeks after being
arrested. He is charged under the Military Extraterritorial
Jurisdiction Act passed by Congress in 2000 to allow service members
serving overseas to be prosecuted in civilian court for offenses that
call for more than one year of imprisonment.
other captured combatants were allegedly killed that morning in
Nelson’s presence, he confessed to Fox. Nelson said the killings
occurred a few hours after Kilo Company begin its attack on the
al-Qaeda-led insurgent army that had gained control of the city.
Sgt. Ryan Weemer and LCpl Corey J. Carlisle
Another combatant was allegedly shot to death by Sgt. Ryan Weemer, at
the time a corporal in 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company. Nelson claims Weemer
shot an elderly Iraqi man numerous times with his pistol.
was recalled to active duty from the inactive reserves in mid-March to
face murder charges he inadvertently initiated more than two years. He
was charged with unpremeditated murder and dereliction of duty as soon
as he reported to Camp Pendleton.
McDermott said he is still waiting to discover if Weemer had been
granted immunity similar to Nelson’s government offering to testify
against Nazario. If he refuses to testify he would also be liable for
has not made any public statements since he first revealed the alleged
killings to a reporter in the spring of 2006. His attorney has
declined numerous invitations to comment since Weemer was charged.
Expected to testify against the three Marines already charged is
former LCpl Corey J. Carlisle, 26 (who became a Mormon missionary in
Indiana after leaving the Corps). Carlisle said he was inside the building when the
four prisoners were reportedly killed. During the incident Carlisle
said he found two AK-47 rifles hidden inside the house and spent
ammunition on the roof.
Carlisle told Fox that the first insurgent prisoner to die was an old
man with a white beard. He surmised that Weemer had killed him with a
single shot from his pistol, Carlisle said.
hearing the gunshot he went into the kitchen. In the kitchen Carlisle encountered Weemer
standing in front of a dead insurgent, he said.
Carlisle told Fox that Weemer claimed the prisoner had made a move to
take away his weapon—a 9mm pistol he was holding in his hand. The
prisoner had been shot in the head, Carlisle said in his taped
two taped confessions, Nelson told Fox that Weemer had shot the old man
over and over again.
Moments later, after a conversation with Nazario, Carlisle told Fox
that he forcibly ushered away LCpl James L Prentice, a squad member
eager to kill another prisoner at Nazario’s behest. Nazario says the
conversation never happened.
Carlisle said Prentice was angered that LCpl Juan Segura had just died
after being shot outside the house moments before they assaulted it.
After convincing Prentice not to get involved Weemer, Prentice, and
Carlisle left the building, he claimed.
the two minutes it took to exit the building, Carlisle said he heard
three more shots that he presumed to be Nazario finishing off the
three combatants in his custody.
initially revealed the alleged incident during a job interview for a
uniformed Secret Service position in Washington, D.C. in 2006, he
said. The allegations came to light when Weemer told federal
investigators he had witnessed the unlawful killings while serving
under Nazario in Iraq.
his revelations were passed on to the Naval Criminal Investigative
Service in late 2006, NCIS began a 14-month investigation into the
Fox’s subsequent affidavit in support of his complaint against Nazario
filed last August Fox claimed that Nazario—in the heat of combat—killed two prisoners in retaliation for the death of his friend Lance
Cpl. Juan Segura. He believes Nelson and Weemer killed two other
Nazario denies the event happened and Weemer initially claimed that he
was merely a witness to the incident. When revealing the alleged
killings for the first time to a reporter in the spring of 2006,
Weemer claimed that his squad had chased eight Iraqis into the
building where they later died.
More charges coming
Several other former Kilo Company Marines anticipate they will face
criminal charges for their still unspecified roles in the burgeoning
Fallujah case. The Marine Corps is still trying to determine who
gave the reported order to Nazario, Marine and defense lawyers
familiar with the charges say.
court hearing Nazario’s case recently denied defense motions arguing
civilian courts had no jurisdiction in purely military decisions.
Until the law was passed in 2000 service members who had completed
their military obligation could not be prosecuted in civilian courts
for offenses that occurred while they were in military service.
Nazario is the first Marine and second member of the US Armed Forces
to be charged under the act.
There is no
substantial case law to help courts and judges examine the intent and
Constitutionality of the law, numerous legal experts have declared.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
15 May 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).