A Marine sergeant accused of murdering an
Iraqi insurgent at Fallujah more then three years ago was returned to
Marine Corps control Thursday after spending a week in a Los Angeles
civilian jail on federal contempt charges.
District Judge Percy Anderson ordered Sergeant Jermaine Nelson
released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles a week
after ordering him confined for refusing to testify against his former
squad leader in a related federal murder investigation, his lawyer
Joseph Low said.
is charged by the Marine Corps with unpremeditated murder and
dereliction of duty for allegedly shooting an Iraqi insurgent prisoner
in the opening hours of the month long battle in November, 2004. He is
currently stationed at Camp Pendleton.
obtaining legal counsel last year Nelson confessed to shooting one of
the prisoners and witnessing the deaths of three others. He claimed
that his former squad leader Sgt. Jose L Nazario ordered him and
another Marine to help execute four captured insurgents.
says the event never happened.
Government prosecutors granted Nelson testimonial immunity last month
and ordered him to testify before the federal Grand Jury looking into
the case. He refused and was locked up for contempt, his lawyer Joseph
Low said at the time.
being released Nelson again told Anderson he would not testify against
Nazario. The exasperated judge ordered
Nelson to return on June 18 to appear before the Grand Jury and
suggested that he at least "listen to the questions," his lawyer said.
Nelson responded that he did not intend to
change his mind.
government is trying to enhance the charges against Nazario from two
counts of voluntary manslaughter to murder and using a weapon in the
commission of a felony, his attorney Kevin B. McDermott said.
government says Nazario was leading the squad when it captured the
four combatants on November 9 while searching a house being used as a
strong point. Moments before entering the house another squad member
had been killed by insurgent small arms fire coming from the vicinity,
government prosecutors said.
case is based primarily on the statements of Nelson, Weemer, and
several other Marines who gave often conflicting testimony of what
happened there. The government has been unable to produce victims, a
crime scene, or any physical evidence to corroborate the allegations.
was charged last August and is scheduled to go on trial July 8 in US
District Court in Riverside Nazario was charged in civilian court
because the Marine Corps no longer has criminal jurisdiction over the
was a Riverside Police Department probationary patrolman when he was
Government prosecutors want Nelson and Sgt Ryan Weemer, another Marine
implicated in the case, to tell the Grand Jury that they followed
Nazario’s orders to shoot two of the four Iraqi insurgents captured in
the opening hours of the horrendous Fallujah battle in November, 2004.
Sgt Weemer has already told the court he
would not testify. Anderson ordered Weemer to appear before US
District Judge Stephen Larsen today (Friday) to explain his
intentions. The government has granted Weemer testimonial immunity to
testify against Nazario, McDermott said.
revealed the alleged incident to federal investigators during a job
interview two years ago. At the time he said he merely witnessed the
incident and did not participate in killing anyone.
Weemer’s appointed military lawyer told
Judge Anderson Thursday that the Rules for Courts Martial mandated
that only a military convening authority to order a
serviceman to testify under a grant of immunity.
Anderson took the argument under submission.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
30 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).