by David Allender
Day One | May 28, Wednesday
Jury selection is
complete, the day ended with seven jurors empanelled.
During jury selection,
prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Paul Atterbury asked prospective jurors
if they had read about the case on NewsMax or in articles by Nat
Helms. None said they had. (Interestingly, no one was asked if they
read Time magazine.)
The jurors are all higher
ranks than Lieutenant Grayson—a colonel,
four lieutenant colonels, a major and a captain.
Opening statements start
Lieutenant Grayson has his
wife and family on hand to lend support. I can only imagine their fear
when the judge announced that the charges (three false official
statements, two obstructing justice and two attempted fraudulent
discharge) added up to a possible 30 years confinement.
There are expected to be some 34 witnesses called and the case is
supposed to conclude by the end of next Tuesday.
Colonel Gregory Watt (of
the Watt Investigation) is on the witness list and is scheduled to
appear. So is Major Jeffrey Dinsmore and other 3/1 Marines who ordered
Staff Sergeant Laughner to delete his photographs. I can't help but
recall the words of the Investigating Officer at
Lieutenant Grayson's Article 32 who
noted, "I would
have expected everyone in that battalion would have been charged and
obviously that didn't happen."
Day Two | May 29, Thursday
Long day with opening
statements and three witnesses (three out of
could go longer than expected). Tomorrow the start time is 7:30.
testimony was as puzzling as the entire prosecution's case. Laughner
claimed he had never heard of the order not to keep pictures of dead
Iraqi civilians on his personal computer. He said he downloaded 38
images of the 70 or so he had taken that day. And none of the pictures
he downloaded were of the detained insurgents. This supported Lt
Grayson's assessment that the pictures had no intelligence value.
Laughner got quite a
few questions from members of the panel. He admitted to using a
program called Windows Washer on his laptop when he got home from
Iraq. His testimony about why he used it seemed a little hinky—I have
a feeling this will come up again before the trial is over.
admitted that he has not been granted full immunity, and that NCIS had
threatened him with charges on four counts (including mishandling
classified info and reports on his personal computer) and false
official statements. Laughner claimed he couldn’t remember the other
two threatened charges, and also claimed he lied so that investigators
wouldn’t take his laptop as evidence.
admitted that he never sent the photos or a written report up the
command chain. He did say he wrote an MFR a couple of days later,
without photos, but no one seems to have found it. The only written
report from HET was prepared by
Sentano. He sent what is called a detainee target package (regarding
the one detainee that Sentano had brought back after the battle that
was of HET interest), and even that didn’t contain a single one of
Sentano was the
second witness. Sentano is one of those smart, quiet guys who spoke
very well about intelligence procedures. Bolstering Lt Grayson's
Senteno testified that he also told Laughner to delete the photos
because of policy.
I didn't get much from the third
witness testimony, a Marine named Reyna (a radio operator at Haditha
Tomorrow's first witness is Colonel
Gregory Watt. Should be a doozy.
Quote of the day: "Lieutenant
Grayson is nothing more than a fall guy in a botched investigation under
intense media pressure."—Major William A.
Santmyer, military defense attorney
Day Three | May 30, Friday
Friday’s testimony offered a stark contrast.
Agent Matthew Marshall of the NCIS testified that Lieutenant Grayson
had been friendly and cordial, that the lieutenant had no problem
making statements. Marshall said they spoke for three hours, that it
was an interview and not an interrogation.
importantly, SA Marshall testified that Lt Grayson told him that he
had seen photos taken by his subordinate, SSgt Laughner, and told him
to delete them. Lt Grayson said he did so because photos because it
was policy. The photos had no intelligence value. Marshall testified
that he did not suspect criminal behavior on the part of Lt Grayson.
Marshall’s statements were in stark contrast to testimony from an Army
investigator, Colonel Gregory Watt. It is Lt Grayson's alleged
prevarications with Col Watt that brought the lieutenant to this court
Watt arrived in Iraq in February 17, 2006—roughly a month before NCIS
and a month before the publication of the first Haditha story in
Time magazine. Col Watt had been prepped for his assignment with a
copy of a letter from Tim McGirk that outlined allegations of murder
in Haditha and the propaganda video that was shot of the ambush’s
Grayson’s problems began when he refused to sign a form before being interrogated by Col Watt. As an intelligence officer, Lt
Grayson explained that he could not do so without authorization (Al
Qaeda has bounties on the heads of the HET operators, so they are
never allowed to sign their names to anything that identifies them ). This
got the colonel and lieutenant off to a bad start.
the interview, Lt Grayson told Col Watt there were no intelligence
photos of the incident in Haditha without specifying that the photos,
ruled as having no intelligence value, had been deleted. Later during
the one-hour interview, however, Lt Grayson did tell Col Watt that
some photographs taken at the scene had been deleted. Based on this,
Col Watt reported back to prosecutors that he believed Lt Grayson had
not been cooperative or truthful. That led to the lieutenant being
charged on December 21, 2006.
prosecution faces a difficult task in proving that Lt Grayson
deliberately withheld information. At one point during the day on
Friday, Col Watt was asked, "Did you ever specifically ask Lt Grayson
to provide photographs?" Col Watt's answer was no.
Strangely enough, there has never been shortage of photographs taken
in Haditha. Col Watt also testified that none of the Marines who took
photographs that day (and there were at least five photographers:
Laughner, Briones, Wright, Sanchez, and even Dela Cruz) volunteered
photographs to him during their questioning.
Watt is the prosecution’s star witness in case that, to this observer
at least, is becoming more bizarre by the day.
questioning, Col Watt admitted that he is currently under
investigation for misconduct over an improper relationship with a
subordinate. Allegedly, Col Watt’s executive office, a Major Schmidt,
discovered some eight thousand text messages that had been sent over a
three-month period. When Major Schmidt pursued an investigation, Col
Watt allegedly threatened his life.
Watt denies everything.
Prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Paul Atterbury probably wondered why
this kind of thing keeps happening with his star witnesses. During the
Article 32 hearings, Dela Cruz and Mendoza ran into major credibility
issues as well though for different reasons.
Friday, the prosecution presented its case against Lt Grayson for
fraudulent separation from the Marine Corps.
Grayson’s former commander, Lieutenant Colonel
Andrew Gillan of the 2nd
Intel Battalion, was asked why he signed Lt Grayson’s discharge. LtCol
Gillan responded that Lt Grayson was not on legal hold.
senior member of the panel submitted a question: Senior “Did anyone
direct Lt Grayson not to check out until all legal matters were
Gillan said no.
is now in recess until Monday when the prosecution is expected to wrap
up its case. The defense is expected to start on Tuesday—the day the
trial was initially projected to conclude. At the end of the day on
Friday, eight witnesses out of 34 had appeared.
side note, it was striking to some how different an Article 32 hearing
is from a court martial. One likened an Article 32 to the Wild West
and a court martial to civilization. The judge is a no-nonsense major. At one point, he admonished Col Watt for making a show of
shaking his head during legal objections to his testimony.
Day Four | June 2, Monday
In a courtroom shocker, military judge
Major Brian Kasprzyk dismissed one of four charges pending against Lt.
Andrew Grayson. The charge dismissed is obstructing justice. It
carried a maximum punishment of dismissal,
forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 5 years.
Three charges still stand against the lieutenant:
two charges of making a false official statement and one charge of
leave the Marine Corps.
Major Kasprzyk dropped the charge because the investigation Grayson
is accused of trying to thwart was not a criminal probe at that time
Day Five | June 3, Tuesday
In the courtroom today, we finally learned the
details behind Lieutenant Andrew Grayson's alleged fraudulent attempt
to leave the Marine Corps.
The key witness was Lt Grayson's first military-appointed lawyer,
Major (now lieutenant colonel) Kevin Woodard. He
advised Grayson throughout his separation process.
On the witness stand, Woodard was asked, "What
did you do when you found out that Lt Grayson was not on legal hold?"
The reply was "nothing". Woodard checked with his
superiors and was told that neither he nor Lt Grayson were under any
ethical or legal obligation to inform the government that it had made
an error by not placing the lieutenant on legal hold, which would have
halted the separation process.
In Woodard's view, the government had screwed up
and he couldn't believe the government had made that kind of mistake. He
told Lt Grayson to be honest in the separation process, to never use
his rank to influence the process, and that he had no
obligation to tell anyone that there were charges hanging over him.
Lt Grayson checked with Woodard a final time before picking up his
DD214 and was told to proceed.
retired, staff NCOIC in personnel department. She issued a DD215 to
Lt. Grayson that voided the DD214. She said the DD214 had been issued
in error and there was no other way to correct the government's
Linda Heeren in
Quantico, section head of separations and retirement, testified that
she never heard of a DD215 voiding a DD214. She has had a job for 20
years dealing with separations.
Panel members heard numerous
testimony today that Lt Grayson has served his country with the utmost
The most moving testimony came from
Major Samuel H. Carrasco, operations
officer for the Third Battalion. He testified that Lt Grayson's
as an intelligence officer saved Major Carrasco the painful task of
writing hundreds of families that their child had been killed in
Maj Carrasco also testified that the Watt Investigation was not
presented as a criminal probe, but was informal and disjointed. He
also testified that the town council meeting (during which complaints
were raised by the Haditha incident) included insurgent sympathizers
and outright members of al Qaeda.
Special Agent Jason
Shorey, NCIS. Interviewed Laughner and testified that some of the
statements in Laughner’s statement didn’t add up. Also that, after
examining Laughner's computer, it was discovered he was using his
personal media for classified work. In contrast to Laughner's
"concerns" about the commission of a crime in Haditha, he never wrote
a DIRR about Nov 19 nor did he ever attach photos to a report.
Special Agent Patrick Lim,
an examination of SSgt Justin Laughner's computer, he corroborated Lt
Grayson's claim that he had never been shown the photographs as
Laughner had claimed. SA Lim was able to be discover the dates the
files had been accessed, and none matched the dates that Laughner
claimed he had shown the photographs to Lt Grayson.
Col Mark Smith. Lt
Grayson’s first commanding officer in Iraq. Testified that their unit
was given an extremely dangerous, difficult assignment. Lt Grayson was
always spot-on in analysis. That he possessed exceptional character.
Lt Grayson's commander
in Africa before he was charged. (Didn't get the name of the
colonel.) Testified that Lt Grayson did mission plannings, conducted
investigations. That he was extremely professional and performed with
great integrity and with concern for the men under him.
Master Sgt Jason
Daniels. The master sergeant has been in the Marines for 15 years,
in Iraq four times (including Fallujah). He is an intelligence
specialist. Took the witness stand with his arm in a cast--looking a
little like Sgt Rock.
MSgt Daniels testified
that it was three or four days after Nov 19 that he debriefed Laughner.
Grayson wasn’t there. Testified that photos only have intelligence
value if they are of an insurgent of interest. Testified that all
members were trained in the photo policy. No photos of dead bodies are
to be kept.
Daniels was asked about
Lt Grayson. He replied, “I trust with him all I got, sir.”
MSgt Daniels was
challenged aggressively by the prosecution about the importance of the
incident in Haditha--that surely he should have kept the photographs.
MSgt Daniels said the incident wasn't special: it was just another
Major Dan Whisnant,
a commander with 20 years in intelligence. Testified that Lt Grayson
is a great Marine officer. Very intuitive, always truthful with,
Testified that out of the twenty-five lieutenants he's been assigned,
Lt Grayson was one of the best he ever had.
Day Six | June 4, Wednesday
deliberation, and celebration as the panel found Lt Grayson not
guilt on all counts.