DEFEND OUR MARINES
Judge Dismisses Criminal Contempt Against Two Marines Facing Court-Martial for Murder
Defend Our Marines | Nathaniel R. Helms | Tuesday, September 25, 2008 | pdf
In a brief order he signed Wednesday afternoon Larson dismissed the charges without prejudice against sergeants Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson. They were charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify against former Sergeant Jose L. Nazario.
Both men face murder and related charges at Camp Pendleton for their alleged role in the deaths of four enemy combatants allegedly executed by on November 9, 2004 at Fallujah, Iraq.
On Monday Assistant US Attorney Jerry A. Behnke asked Larson to remove their companion cases from the September 29 docket for the US District Court for Central California, effectively dismissing the contempt charges against the Marines.
Nazario was acquitted by a civilian jury of killing two enemy combatants and ordering Weemer and Nelson to execute two others his squad captured.
Nazario, 28, was the first former military service member brought to trial under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, written in 2000 to allow prosecution of civilian contractors who commit crimes while working for the U.S. overseas. It also allows the prosecution of military dependents and former military service members accused of committing crimes outside the United States.
A jury of nine women and three men acquitted the former Marine infantryman on August 28. Their unanimous verdict included a strong message to federal prosecutors not to meddle in purely military affairs.
“I never thought he was guilty,” said juror Nicole Peters, a native of Belgium who is now a high school guidance counselor in Gavilan Hills, California. “When we went in, it was nine to three for not guilty.”
By lunch there was only one juror who thought he was guilty," she said. “The hold-out kept saying, “but he killed somebody.”
"Who are we to decide what men in war are doing? My father was a military man in Belgium who went through World War II fighting the Germans. He understands,” Peters added.
Nazario’s lead defense attorney Kevin B. McDermott, himself a former Marine lawyer, said Nazario is still waiting to find out if he will be called to testify against his former squadmates.
Meanwhile Nazario has returned to his new home in upstate New York to look for a job. He was fired from his position as a probationary patrolman on the Riverside Police Department when he was arrested on August 7, 2007 and has so far not been reinstated.
“We are waiting for the government to tell us whether they intend to call Jose to testify in Weemer and Nelson’s court-martials. Once we know what they intend to do we will figure out what course of action we must take,” McDermott said
Weemer is scheduled to stand trial on October 27, 2008 and Nelson in late December. Both men have pleaded not guilty to murder and dereliction of duty.
Two weeks ago McDermott seconded a call in the Marine Corps Times newspaper for charges against Weemer and Nelson to be dropped.
The newspaper's lead editorial on September 8th said that “"the Corps should drop the charges against the other accused Marines and lay this case to rest."
McDermott says the Marine Corps’ case is no stronger than the one brought against Nazario in federal court.
A Marine Corps spokesman has said it has no intention of dismissing the charges against the two Marines.
See this court document [pdf]
Nathaniel R. Helms
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).