by Nathaniel R. Helms

February 15, 2008 — The chief prosecutor in the case against Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich has been replaced by Major Daren C. Erickson, a Camp Pendleton-based career Marine lawyer.  Lt Col Sean Sullivan, a reservist from Chicago, led the government’s case against Wuterich since the 27-year old infantryman was initially charged with perpetrating a massacre in Haditha, Iraq more than two years ago.

Mark Zaid, civilian co-counsel for Wuterich, confirmed the change

Staff Sergeant  Wuterich currently stands accused of 12 counts of voluntary manslaughter, as well as aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. On Monday the government unilaterally granted immunity to Lance Corporal Stephan Tatum to testify against Wuterich at his general court-martial next month. To ensure that there was no appearance of impropriety in the arrangement; Sullivan had to go, according to several defense lawyers.

Sullivan spearheaded the prosecution of Wuterich since he was charged in December 2006 following allegations his squad massacred 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha more than two years ago. Sullivan’s two-fisted approach to convicting Wuterich has left more than one defense attorney crying foul.

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Last August Sullivan apologized after accusing defense attorney Maj. Haytham Faraj of unethical conduct during Wuterich’s Article 32 hearing at Camp Pendleton. He later raised the ire of the defense when they discovered one of his star witnesses against Wuterich had managed to get transferred from Camp Pendleton to a reserve battalion in Chicago.

Major Erickson has been connected with the Haditha case before, having been lead prosecutor in the Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt case. Prior to that, he earned a modicum of fame during an Article 32 investigation at Twentynine Palms, California in February 2004 while defending a reserve gunnery sergeant accused of making false statements to the military that damaged the reputation of the Marine Corps.

Before being arrested the defendant told the Las Vegas Review Journal he had tracked down and executed two Iraqi Republican Guards after they attacked his unit on combat operations in Iraq.

Erickson maintained that because of his client’s poor health he shouldn’t be held responsible “for the story he told the Review-Journal, or variations of the double-execution he repeated to military personnel in the days after the article was published”, according to a February 24, 2004 story in the Review Journal


Nathaniel R. HelmsDefend Our Marines
15 February 2008


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).