Tuesday, January 18, 2012
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 government.
Although speculation is rampant, a clearer picture will emerge tomorrow morning when the court martial is scheduled to resume.