Second officer to face court martial for Haditha
by Nathaniel R. Helms
December 31, 2007 – Lieutenant Andrew Grayson will face courts-martial for his alleged role in the incident at Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. Grayson is the third Marine and second officer that is being sent to general court-martial at Camp Pendleton, California. The prosecution in the case is expected to level more criminal charges, including allegations Grayson attempted to fraudulently obtain his discharge from active duty early last summer.
On June 13th, Joseph Casas, Grayson’s California-based civilian attorney andformer enlisted Marine turned Navy prosecutor, announced that Lt. Grayson had been discharged on June 1, 2007 and was therefore not liable for prosecution under the UCMJ. The Marine Corps disputed the claim and ordered Grayson to remain on active duty. At the time of the incident a Marine Corps spokesman at Camp Pendleton declined to say why Grayson had been issued his ‘DD-214,’ the document active service members receive upon discharge from active duty.
The 26-year old intelligence officer with 2nd Counter-Intelligence Human Intelligence Exploitation Company (CI HUMINT Co) was attached to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1) at Haditha when a squad of Marines from Kilo Co., 3/1 was ambushed by an al Qaeda led and trained attack force there. Grayson gained notoriety when he publicly refused to accept non-judicial punishment for allegation he destroyed evidence and impeded a criminal investigation into the matter.
Last September Grayson was offered a plea deal that required him to admit that he covered up the killings in Haditha, Iraq, in exchange for having all charges dismissed. Grayson refused, saying he had done nothing wrong and would be selling his integrity by accepting such a deal.
Grayson was recalled from leave just before the Christmas holiday and ordered to return to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He joined the service from Springboro, Ohio, and was on his second tour of Iraq at the time of the Haditha incident. He joined the service in May 2003 through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Sean D. Gibson said Sunday that the Marine Corps would soon release a statement concerning Grayson’s situation.
An exemplary Marine officer, Lt. Grayson was nominated for a Bronze Star for his bravery after the ambush of a squad of Marines at Haditha triggered an all day fight that left 24 Iraqi citizens and one Marine dead and 11 Marines wounded. Lt. Grayson was nominated for the valor award before the investigation into Haditha began. Grayson’s attorney, Joseph Casas, said the medal recommendation was written in February 2006, about the same time government agents were probing the deaths.
Casas said the nomination praised the Marine for learning of two other roadside bombs in Haditha from Iraqis he questioned in the wake of the attacks. He was also cited for obtaining information that led to the capture of two men who detonated the bomb that killed 20-year old LCpl Miguel ‘T.J.’ Terrazas that sparked the violence.
Grayson already faces three charges related to the incident. Two of those charges comes with the possibility of five years prison time and dismissal from the service.
Preferred Charges and Specifications:
Charge I:Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92 (Dereliction) (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months)
Specification 1: willfully failed to ensure that this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war was accurately reported to higher headquarters.
Specification 2: willfully failed to ensure that a thorough investigation was initiated into this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war.
Charge II: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 107 (False Official Statement) (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years)
Specification: did with intent to deceive, make a false official statement.
Charge III: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 134 (Obstructing Justice) (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 5 years)
Specification: did wrongfully endeavor to impede an investigation.
Dispute over photos
The key prosecution witness in the original charges was SSgt. Justin Laughner, an enlisted marine under Grayson’s command at Haditha. Laughner testified several times during the eight-month long hearing process that preceded the charges that Grayson “pressured” him to erase photographs of the dead in Haditha from his computer. Laughner said he felt the order amounted to obstruction of justice but that he complied and later lied when asked whether any pictures had been taken.
Key defense testimony came from Capt. (now Major) Jeffrey Dinsmore, the intelligence officer of 3/1 and the officer who interacted with Grayson on a daily basis. On several occasions he testified that Grayson had done nothing wrong ordering Laughner to destroy the photographs per Marine Corps regulations because they held no intelligence value.
At the time Grayson gave the orders to destroy the photographs there was no hint that a war crimes investigation would ensue and that the photographs might one day be considered evidence.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
31 December 2007
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).