Camp Pendleton, Calif. – Defend Our Marines has learned
there is a possible deal in the works to end arguably the most
divisive court-martial in Marine Corps history. Sources have confirmed
that defense counsel Neal Puckett and and lead prosecutor Maj.
Nicholas Gannon have entered into "conversations" to have the case
resolved. The military judge, Lt Col David Jones, told the lawyers
Wednesday afternoon after unexpectedly recessing the trial that he
would be available for "consultation" until 0800 tomorrow morning when
court is scheduled to resume.
A source close to the trial said a lack of money on the defense side,
a lack of evidence on the prosecution side, and the likelihood that
the eight-member panel will find SSgt Frank Wuterich not guilty of
voluntary manslaughter and related charges have all combined to bring
the case to a possible conclusion.
Wuterich was charged in December 2006 with murder
stemming from the multi-million dollar, worldwide investigation
triggered by a specious Time magazine story in March 2006.
Wuterich is also charged with Dereliction of Duty and Assault with a
Deadly Weapon after 14 Iraqi civilians were killed when the fire team
he was leading "cleared" two houses suspected of harboring insurgents
using grenades and rifle fire.
The Marine infantryman, described repeatedly by prosecution witnesses
as a great Marine who did everything right, has been in limbo since he
was meritoriously promoted to Staff Sergeant for his excellent
performance as a leader in Iraq. That characterization is challenged
by two former squad members, Sgt Sanick Dela Cruz, who made a deal
with Marine prosecutors to avoid prosecution for five murders, and Sgt
Humberto Mendoza, who testified today he was coerced by Naval Criminal
Investigative Service special agents who threatened the Venezuelan
native with deportation if he refused to cooperate with the
Although speculation is rampant, a clearer picture will emerge
tomorrow morning when the court martial is scheduled to resume.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
18 January 2012
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).