ANN ARBOR, MI – Attorneys defending Marine Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Chessani will be in a Military Court at Camp Pendleton, California on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, pressing forward with additional oral arguments on two critical motions, as well as other pretrial matters.
Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center which is defending LtCol Chessani, will be arguing that the case should be dismissed on two separate grounds: first, that the existence of unlawful command influence prevents Chessani from receiving a fair trial, and second, that Chessani has been the victim of selective prosecution for improper reasons.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, “There is no doubt that Lt. Colonel Chessani is a political scapegoat for the politicians in the Pentagon who wanted to appease the anti-war press and their fellow politicians in Congress. Even before the investigation into the Haditha case was completed, anti-war Congressman John Murtha publicly proclaimed that Marines killed in ‘cold blood’ and that the officers were involved in a ‘cover-up.’ Murtha claimed he obtained his information from senior Marine Corps officials.”
In addition to Law Center attorney Robert Muise, detailed military defense counsel Lt. Colonel John Shelburne, USMC, and Captain Jeff King, USMC, will be representing LtCol Chessani at the Wednesday hearing.
Defense attorneys will also seek to exclude certain government witnesses from testifying at the trial based on the Judge’s statement in a previous hearing limiting the issues in the case. In addition, defense attorneys will ask the Judge to order further discovery of documents in the possession of the Government and will examine a witness in furtherance of the motions to dismiss on grounds of unlawful command influence and selective prosecution.
The criminal charges against LtCol Chessani stem from his Marines response to a complex attack that was initiated by insurgents in a residential area in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. A house-to-house, room-by- room battle ensued in which 15 civilians were killed. At the time, LtCol Chessani was the battalion commander of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment, one of the most decorated battalions in our nation’s history.
Chessani is charged with ‘dereliction of duty’ and ‘orders’ violations stemming from this terrorist attack in the once insurgent-laden town of Haditha. This battle cost the Marines fourteen casualties and one killed. The insurgents, hiding amongst women and children in civilian homes, caused the death of fifteen civilians as the Marines fought back.
Months later, Time magazine ran a story that was planted by an insurgent propaganda agent. This story added fuel to the political prosecution, which was led by Congressman Murtha. Now, LtCol Chessani, one of America’s most effective combat commanders in Iraq, faces dismissal (an officer’s equivalent of a dishonorable discharge), loss of retirement, and imprisonment of up to 3 years for allegedly not reporting or ‘thoroughly’ investigating the incident, despite the established fact that all of the senior leadership in his chain-of-command, including general officers, knew that day or the very next morning all of the relevant details of the incident. No one in LtCol Chessani’s chain of command saw the need for further action nor directed any such action.
Thompson continued, “The insurgents are laughing in their caves. The story of Marines killing civilians in cold blood on November 19, 2005, was planted by a known insurgent propaganda operative. They have successfully eliminated one of America’s most effective combat commanders in Iraq without firing a shot.”
The actual court-martial trial is scheduled to begin June 17, 2008. It was continued from its original start date of April 28, 2008.
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org