Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: **Chessani Charges Dropped**

Just a few minutes ago, this report crossed the wires:

A military judge has dismissed charges against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges Tuesday against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after defense attorneys raised concerns that a four-star general overseeing the prosecution was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled, but Folsom excluded Marine Forces Central Command from future involvement.

Chessani was the highest-ranking officer implicated in the case.

Here's what WND is reporting:

A judge in the U.S. military court system today tossed out the charges against a Marine officer whose soldiers were caught in a bloody firefight with insurgents in 2005 in Haditha, Iraq.

The decision from Col. Steven Folsom came in the case against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after defense lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center raised the specter of unlawful command influence by confirming an "investigator" in the case also met dozens of times with commanders deciding the course of the prosecution.

Folsom's ruling dismissed the charges without prejudice, which means prosecutors could restart the case, but the judge said the Marine Forces Central Command could not be involved if that happens, according to the Associated Press.

Later in their article, WND says this:

Folsom's ruling followed up on his earlier decision, on which WND reported, in which he confirmed there was evidence of unlawful command influence, which is considered the "mortal enemy" of justice within the military judicial structure.

The judge's conclusion then was based on evidence two generals who controlled Chessani's case were influenced by Marine lawyer Col. John Ewers, one of the investigators assigned to the case. Ewers was allowed to attend at least 25 closed-session meetings in which Chessani's case was discussed.

That means 7 of the 8 Marines unjustly accused by Rep. John Murtha have been acquitted or had their charges dropped. The only case still pending is that of SSgt. Frank Wuterich.

I don't think those will be pending much longer because the politicians, especially Rep. Murtha, will want that ruling made in late September when people will be paying alot more attention to these types of events.

It's my opinion that people would be outraged if it was proved that politicians and corrupt generals trumped up charges against true American heroes for a shortterm political gain. That's precisely what Rep. Murtha did.

What isn't opinion is that military brass exerted inappropriate pressure during the investigative stage of this process. Today's ruling makes that a finding of fact.

What's appalling to me is that Congress has turned a blind eye towards Rep. Murtha's egregious misconduct. Democrats have marched in lockstep against starting an ethics complaint against Rep. Murtha. This shouldn't be a partisan issue because Rep. Murtha violated some of the most sacred principles of the American judicial system. I'd hoped that defending the Constitution hadn't become a partisan issue. Obviously, that's what happened.

When Rep. Murtha went on national TV and said that the Haditha Marines had "killed innocent civilians in cold blood", he stripped these men of the presumption of innocence, which is the cornerstone of their due process rights. What's most repulsive is that he did this before being briefed on the investigation at that point.

It's time for Congress to do something to right this wrong. It's time for them to officially chastize Rep. Murtha for his unethical and appalling actions in this case. It's time for them to say that the Constitution's protections aren't a partisan issue.

If they don't swiftly move in that direction, then voters should fire those 'representatives' who put partisan politics ahead of the Constitution.

UPDATE: Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center is quoted in this WND article as saying:

"We are grateful for the judge's ruling today. He truly was the 'last sentinel' to guard against unlawful command influence," said Richard Thompson, president of the law center. "Tragically, our own government eliminated one of its most effective combat commanders. The insurgents are laughing in their caves."
Here's TMLC's article on Chessani's victory:

Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom, USMC, this morning dismissed all charges against Lt Colonel Jeffrey Chessani on the grounds of unlawful command influence. He blistered the prosecution’s case in an opinion he read from the bench that lasted an hour. The ruling was without prejudice. Colonel Folsom gave prosecutors 72 hours in which to notify him whether they would appeal.

The ruling was greeted with tears of joy from Chessani’s wife and several spectators in the courtroom.
It's good to hear that Col. Folsom heard the evidence of wrongdoing and ruled appropriately today. This is a shot across Rep. Murtha's bow, not to mention a shot across the investigators' bow, too.

Make no mistake about this ruling. Col. Ewers acted inapprorpriately in this case. That isn't opinion. That's a finding of fact.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative