Nearly four years after the so-called “Haditha Massacre, ” an investigation conducted by over 65 NCIS agents (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) ─ the largest investigation in that agency’s history ─ with the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars, and prosecution losses at every stage of the criminal process, the government is still pursuing legal action against Marine LtCol Jeffrey Chessani.
On June 15, 2009, the Staff Judge Advocate to the Marine Commandant confirmed to the Thomas More Law Center, that the Commandant, General James Conway, had referred the Chessani prosecution to LtGen George Flynn, Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, VA, for disposition.
The case was sent back to the Commandant for disposition shortly after the government decided not to appeal the unanimous ruling by the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals. That ruling affirmed the dismissal of charges against LtCol Chessani on the grounds of unlawful command influence.
Because the military judge’s dismissal of the case was without prejudice, LtGen Flynn will now be responsible for deciding whether to recharge LtCol Chessani, take some administrative action, or take no action.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “This case started out as a political prosecution to appease the Iraqi government, anti-war media, and politicians. LtCol Chessani loyally served his commanders and nation for over 20 years in several wars. It’s time for justice. I hope LtGen Flynn will make the right decision by stopping what is clearly now a political persecution of this loyal and patriotic combat officer.”
The Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with detailed military attorneys LtCol Jon Shelburne, USMC, and Capt Jeffrey King, USMC, have represented LtCol Chessani throughout the criminal process.
Those bogus charges against LtCol Chessani were triggered by a fierce house-to-house, room-by-room combat action taken by four Marines in his battalion after being ambushed by insurgents in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. Along with several insurgents, 15 civilians also died. Where insurgents purposefully use civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are tragic, but not uncommon.
The trumped-up charges against LtCol Chessani: failing to properly report and investigate the November 19, 2005 incident.
In fact, he immediately reported the deaths of the 15 civilian Iraqis to his superiors.
Not one of his superiors hearing of the 15 civilian deaths ─ including top generals ─ considered it unusual. Not one ordered a further investigation. In fact, they commended him for a job well done.
Chessani’s immediate superior told him that no investigation was needed because it was a bona fide combat action.
His commanding general reported up the chain of command, “I support our account and do not see the necessity for further investigation.”
“Marines are renowned for their courage and their willingness to follow their commanders into battle against all odds. Their commanders, on the other hand, owe justice to these brave men and women who face death for them. That obligation requires commanders to defend their troops when politicians attempt to make them political scapegoats, ” said Thompson.