Family of Haditha Defendant
Speaks Out for First Time
by Nathaniel R. Helms |
May 19, 2008
days after Memorial Day, the Marine Corps will
court-martial the officer personally responsible for capturing
the Al Qaeda terrorist who organized the ambush that triggered the
so-called “Haditha Massacre”.
Wednesday, May 28, 1st Lieutenant Andrew Grayson will stand
general court-martial for obstruction of justice and lying to
investigators about the events at Haditha and attempting to obtain a
fraudulent discharge from the Marine Corps. Last September the
government dismissed two counts of dereliction of duty against
weeks ago military judge Maj. Brian Kasperczyk set the stage for
Grayson’s court-martial during a final motion hearing at Camp
Pendleton, California, Grayson’s lead defense counsel Joseph N. Casas—a
former Marine infantryman and Navy lawyer—presented five final
motions for the court’s consideration:
Sever the Attempted
Fraudulent Discharge case from the Haditha charges because they are
unrelated and prejudicial;
Allow co-defendant Lt
Col Jeffrey Chessani to appear as a character witness by granting
him immunity to testify;
Mandate that the
government be held accountable for its failure to comply with the
so-called “ Speedy Trial” act by dismissing the charges;
Address the “Undue
Command Influence” issues raised by Rep. John Murtha’s (D-PA)
slanderous public name calling by compelling him to
Address the failure of
Army Col. Gregory A. Watt and other interrogators to provide Grayson
his Miranda “legal rights” warning by suppressing any statements
Grayson made to them about Haditha before he was identified as a
Kasperczyk denied them all without issuing findings of fact or a basis
in law, Grayson's defense team said.
Grayson, 27, joined the Marine Corps in May, 2003. He has served two
combat tours in Iraq and was on another extended overseas tour in
Africa when he was recalled to the United States last December to
the first Marine charged in the Haditha incident to go to trial.
ready to go to battle,” Casas said Monday.
enlisted men and two other officers who served in 3rd
Battalion, 1st Marines at Haditha have already been
exonerated and one enlisted man and one other officer still have
Grayson is currently an intelligence
officer with 2nd Counter-Intelligence Human Intelligence Exploitation
Company at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is currently living near
Camp Pendleton while he waits for his court-martial to begin.
He was attached to 3/1 at Haditha when the
infantry squad was ambushed. He was not at the scene of the ambush
when it occurred.
Marine Corps intelligence operatives were
advised of the scheme to demonize the Marines by an informant named
Muhannad Hassan Hamadi after he was captured by Grayson’s intelligence
team on December 11 2005 and decided to cooperate.
He revealed that the ambush was carried out
by multiple cells of local Wahabi extremists and well-paid local
gunmen from Al Asa’ib al-Iraq [the Clans of the People of Iraq] that
were led by Al Qaeda foreign fighters, intelligence documents show.
Always an exemplary Marine officer, Lt.
Grayson was nominated for a Bronze Star medal before the investigation
into Haditha began. Casas said the recommendation was written in
February 2006, about the same time government agents were probing the
is charged with ordering the destruction of roughly 70 digital images
of 24 men, women and children killed by Marines in the counter-attack
after the ambush was sprung. The photographs were taken hours after
the incident by Staff Sgt. Justin Laughner, a Marine intelligence
specialist who worked for Grayson.
of the dead were innocent civilians, the rest were insurgents killed
while hiding among them, the government acknowledges. The tragic
deaths of the civilians caught in the cross-fire triggered the
infamous "Haditha Massacre" reports that played on the world stage for
almost a year before the story was debunked and media interest
Charges arose from a former subordinate, a miffed investigator, and
Grayson’s troubles began about two months after Laughner took the
pictures when the lieutenant ordered the sergeant to delete them from his laptop
computer. While testifying under immunity at a preliminary hearing
June 14, 2007, Laughner said Grayson told him to delete the photos so
they could not be part of a statement being prepared for top-ranking
officers and a Time magazine reporter.
Laughner said he felt the order amounted to obstruction of justice but
that he complied and later lied when asked whether any pictures had
been taken. During Grayson’s Article 32 evidentiary hearing Laughner
testified during cross examination by Casas that he had also been
ordered to destroy the images by two senior non-commissioned officers
on his team within days of taking them because they had no
Grayson’s defense team said their client issued his order to Laughner
in compliance with standing general orders not to keep images of dead
civilians and combatants unless they had intelligence value.
said Grayson gave the order weeks after it had already been given by
Laughner’s team chief and company Gunnery Sergeant and before he was
apprised they were evidence in a criminal investigation. By then the
photographs had circulated throughout the battalion as Marines passed
the images from computer to computer.
event no actual harm was done by their presumed destruction. Ever
since Laughner’s photographs were discovered in the camera he used
that day the prosecution has passed them around like baseball cards at
every evidentiary hearing.
September 2007 government prosecutors at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
offered Grayson complete exoneration of all charges in return for
admitting he lied to investigators about the case. He publicly
refused, saying doing so would impugn his honor.
December 13, 2007 Grayson was additionally charged with lying to two
colonels during Col. Gregory Watt’s informal “AR15-6” investigation of
the Haditha, Iraq massacre allegations in March 2006. Watt’s limited
inquiry eventually led to the indictment of four officers from 3/1 for
dereliction of duty and related offenses.
became embroiled in the investigation when Watt discovered that one of
the lieutenant's subordinates had taken digital photographs of the
crime scene that were later destroyed. Watt says that Grayson lied to
him and another officer about the existence of the images, calling him
“arrogant” and “uncooperative.”
same day the Marine Corps charged Grayson with fraudulently attempting
to obtain a discharge.
had already been discharged for 17 days when the Marine Corps decided
it had “erroneously issued” him his cherished DD214 discharge
certificate. To correct the error the Marines issued Grayson a DD215 –
usually reserved for correcting administrative errors to the original
form – and recalled him to active duty.
six weeks of examining the document Judge Kasperczyk did not find a
single error on the DD214 that could be construed as a lie, but he
denied the defense motion to have the complaint dismissed anyway.
Casas then filed an appeal with the Navy/Marine Corps Court of Appeals
in Washington, D.C. It was denied the next day because such appeals
are only granted for “extraordinary circumstances,” the court ruled.
of observers who served in the Armed Forces claim that the fraudulent
discharge complaint would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
Anybody who has served in the military knows it is easier to escape
from a locked box than sneak out of the service, they unanimously
salt said it defies credulity for anyone to accept that a Marine can
talk his way past three or four steely eyed sergeants major and
warrant officers—to say nothing of a
division staff of captains, majors, colonels and generals—on
his way out the door.
be done,” said retired Master Gunnery Sergeant John Crocker, a
Missouri native who served 30 years in the Corps including 10 as an
Administrative Chief. “Not even a doggie [soldier] could get away with
that. It should cost whoever let it happen if it was an error.”
Grayson's family speaks out
is a hidden cost associated with the prosecution of Grayson and
the other seven Marines who were pilloried by the press and deserted
by the Corps, the prosecution’s legion of critics is eager to point
out. It is the harm already done and still being inflicted upon the Haditha defendant’s families.
months Grayson’s family has literally been tortured emotionally and
financially by the devastating consequences of his impending
court-martial, they said.
and his wife Suzy have lived in 12 different places while she puts her
medical studies on hold so she can stay near her husband as the Marine
Corps turns his life upside down, according to her mother, Christine Rudinsky, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
just returned from the last of his motion hearings, and I must say it
was a very, very depressing experience,” she wrote last Thursday, the
first time she has publicly spoken about her son-in-law’s situation
since it emerged. “Prior to this, I had been hopeful that this was all
a silly misunderstanding, that Andrew would be completely exonerated,
and that he and my daughter would be able to resume their lives
now thinking that was very wrong. I am very fearful that the
government has decided that someone must pay and who better than the
lowest ranking, non-career officer out there?”
the pain, Grayson’s parents were equally confident that those in authority would
eventually determine that justice is a two-edge sword. With two sons
proudly serving the Corps they thought it could be no other way until
have maintained silence as the military legal system has persecuted
our son and the two remaining Marines who were charged. We have
been mute, always with the expectation that the Corps would realize
that justice was not to be found in the court martial of men who
performed their duties with distinction,” Grayson parents Robert and
Denise Meyer said in an email written on Sunday.
eldest son serves as a Captain at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Deport),
Parris Island. He will have completed 6 years in 2008, working with a
team to prepare and meld the men of the Corps.
youngest you know as Andrew Grayson. While Greg served in Okinawa and
Korea, Andrew served in Iraq and Africa. Make no mistake, there is an
incredible amount of pride in all our children. Andrew worked with a
team on his first tour, and told of his determination in bringing
about the electoral process in the zone he supported. They were
successful, demonstrated by the election in Iraq.
second tour was as long as the first and on his return, he maintained
a sense of accomplishment. His final deployment was to Africa. It was
cut short when he was returned to the U.S. and was charged as one of
the Haditha 8.”
the emotional ups and downs that have marked the passage of time since
Grayson was charged eighteen moths ago his parents have not forgotten
what service means to the families of those who serve the nation.
thankful every day that our son and the others under charges are alive
and with us. Those that are recognized on Memorial Day had
parents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who do not have our
fortune,” they reminded us all.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
19 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).