Marine Lt. Colonel Chessani
Thrown Under the Bus for Political Reasons;
Fair Trial an Illusion
Press release from the Thomas More Law Center
ANN ARBOR, MI – “Military
Judge Colonel Stephen Folsom’s, USMC, ruling yesterday refusing our
request to take the deposition of Congressman John Murtha, D-PA, is
the latest indication that it will be impossible for Marine Lt.
Colonel Chessani to get a fair trial regarding November 19, 2005,
Haditha incident,” said Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel of the Thomas
More Law Center, the Ann Arbor, Michigan based public interest law
firm defending Lt. Col. Chessani.
“This entire prosecution is
politically motivated and stinks to high heaven. Denying us the right
to take Murtha’s deposition so that we could show undue command
influence, as well as denial of our request for production of
documents in the possession of Lt. Col. Chessani’s superiors makes it
impossible for us to render this loyal Marine officer the effective
assistance of counsel he deserves — they are attempting to throw him
under the bus. In many ways this is a trial like the one in Alice
in Wonderland—the verdict first and then the trial.”
Continued Thompson, “In the next
couple of weeks we will reveal startling facts tracing the impetus for
this prosecution to the highest levels of military and civilian
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani is
charged with “dereliction of duty” and “orders” violations stemming
from the terrorist attack in the once insurgent-laden town of Haditha,
Iraq on November 19, 2005. At the time, Chessani was battalion
commander of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment – one of the
most decorated battalions in our nation’s history. This battle cost
the Marines fourteen casualties – including one Marine
killed-in-action. The insurgents, hiding amongst women and children
in civilian homes, caused the death of fifteen civilians as the
Marines fought back.
Months before the
investigation was completed, Congressman Murtha made the rounds on TV
news programs claiming there was no firefight in Haditha on November
19, 2005, and that the Marines killed innocent Iraqi civilians in
“cold blood” and officers “covered it up.” Murtha publicly stated he
received his information from the highest levels of the Marine Command
– this statement in itself is enough to cause a dismissal of the
charges because of undue command influence.
Congressman Murtha holds
significant influence over military appropriations and in the past has
boasted he can get the Pentagon to do what he wants.
Murtha is the
same person caught on tape negotiating bribes with Arab Sheiks during
the FBI’s 1980 Abscam investigation – he was an un-indicted
coconspirator in that case.
Haditha incident provided ammunition for his well known anti-war
Murtha also has ties to Navy
Secretary Donald Winters. Winters had over 65 NCIS investigators
assigned to investigate Lt. Col. Chessani and the Marines charged in
the case. The NCIS Director claimed that to be the highest number of
investigators assigned to an investigation in the history of the NCIS.
Hearings on the motions ruled on
by Colonel Folsom were held February 20, 2008, and Thursday, February
21, 2008. Law Center attorney Rob Muise and detailed military defense
counsel Lt. Colonel John Shelbourne, USMC, presented oral arguments on
the five motions at Camp Pendleton, California.
Lt. Col. Chessani, one of
America’s most effective combat commanders in Iraq, now faces
dismissal (an officer’s equivalent of a dishonorable discharge), loss
of retirement, and imprisonment of up to 3 years.
The actual court-martial trial
is scheduled to begin April 28, 2008.
Thompson, concluded, “We remain
undaunted despite these latest rulings. We will continue to
vigorously defend Lt. Col. Chessani against this politically-driven
prosecution. At least one more motion hearing is scheduled in April,
and we intend to file several more motions that will be argued during
The Thomas More Law Center
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