MERIDEN - Frank Wuterich is the last
enlisted man standing, but his parents and his attorneys are
hoping for the best.
Instead of beginning a court-martial
Friday, the Marine Corps dismissed all charges against Lance
Cpl. Stephen Tatum for his actions in Haditha, Iraq, on Nov.
Edmond, Okla., was facing involuntary manslaughter, reckless
endangerment and aggravated assault charges related to the
deaths of 24 Iraqis, including 11 women and children.
said the move was to allow "the truth seeking process" to
continue. Tatum is now free to testify as a neutral witness
in Wuterich's trial.
But it also
means Wuterich, a staff sergeant and the squad leader, is
the only man who was in Haditha that day still facing a
1998 Platt High School graduate, was first charged with 18
murder counts in 2006, but a military judge reduced it to
nine counts of voluntary manslaughter after his military
grand jury hearing last year.
is charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment,
dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice.
carry a combined maximum sentence of 160 years in prison,
but experts have said it's unlikely he would receive such a
of Tatum's case was unexpected, said Neal A. Puckett, one of
Tatum had been
given immunity to testify in Wuterich's trial, which was
delayed indefinitely earlier this month because of another
Puckett said it
could have been too difficult to try Tatum since some of his
statements were admissible only in Wuterich's trial.
immunity is "extremely significant," Puckett said Friday.
The military has offered full exoneration to three of the
men who fired weapons in Haditha in hopes that their
testimony will help the prosecution.
also are suing CBS News to release unaired portions of an
interview Wuterich did last year with "60 Minutes." That
matter has delayed his trial.
things thrown into the case at the same time ... it's a
complete act of desperation by the government to salvage its
case against Frank," Puckett said.
and other Marines made statements to Navy investigators that
helped the military level charges against Wuterich, Puckett
said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service "is world
famous for deciding very early on what happened and trying
very early on to get evidence" to support that.
to be revealed as the fundamental flaw in this case."
Wuterich's favor is that Haditha was his first experience in
to be huge," said Puckett, a former military judge. "That
mother, Rosemarie, said Frank was "glad that this is over
for Stephen," but "there's kind of mixed feelings here. He
says he's the last man standing."
been on limited duty at Camp Pendleton in Southern
California since news of the Haditha incident broke two
years ago. He lives with his wife Marisol and their three
daughters, ages 8, 6 and 14 months.
who live on Meriden's west side, are anxious for the trial
to take place and the matter to be put to rest.
"As far as I'm
concerned, they don't have anything credible and anything
they can prove," Rosemarie Wuterich said. "I'm so glad for
(Tatum) and his family. I just hope that it keeps on going
also are facing trial for failing to investigate or
obstructing the investigation of the Haditha incident.
continued to pour in for Wuterich's legal defense fund,
Rosemarie Wuterich said.
Magazine has raised more than $300,000 for Tatum's and
Wuterich's defense. The amount was about $200,000 two weeks