January 24, 2012
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – A U.S. Marine sergeant accused of leading a massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha pleaded guilty on Monday to dereliction of duty, ending the final prosecution stemming from a 2005 incident that brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, entered his plea as part of a deal with military prosecutors in which more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed. Wuterich was initially charged with murder.
He now faces a maximum sentence of three months of confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for three months and a reduction in rank when he is sentenced on Tuesday at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego, a base spokesman said.
Wuterich, 31, was accused of being the ringleader in a series of November 19, 2005, shooting and grenade attacks that left two dozen civilians dead in Haditha, a city west of Baghdad that was then a hotbed of insurgent activity.