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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Jayme Evans
Bio: Jayme Evans
Date:  April 7, 2008
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Topic category:  Other/General

Dismissed With Prejudice

What is abundantly clear is that those presiding over these investigations are more interested in obtaining a conviction than seeking the truth. Lt. Gen. Helland likely never intended to prosecute Stephen Tatum. But he, the NCIS and military prosecutors simply held that threat over Tatum's head for 2 years - using bullying, threats of prosecution and coercion to extract what they could from Stephen Tatum to use against the other Marines.

USMC Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum has finally been exonerated of the bogus charges leveled against him. Perhaps now he can begin to rebuild his life in the peace and prosperity he has fought so hard to secure for so many of us.

While I celebrate the decision to drop all charges against this Marine Rifleman, I also view the circumstances that surround that decision with much trepidation. When combined with the history of prosecutorial misconduct in these cases, it is a clear indication of how desperate the government is to nail the 3 remaining Marines, particularly Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich.

Lance Corporal Tatum was accused of horrible crimes. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault in connection with the deaths of numerous Iraqi civilians. In his original statement to NCIS investigators, he clearly articulated in no uncertain terms that the room clearing tactics he employed; the use of fragmentary grenades and the declaration of an entire house as "hostile" upon positive identification of a threat inside were all operational tactics that were within their training guidelines and Rules of Engagement. He further indicated in his testimony that he often received bi-weekly training in the ROE and again at every mission briefing before they departed, not only bolstering his case, but also that of Lt. Col. Chessani, who was directly (and wrongfully) accused of improperly training his men in the application of the ROE.

And like the other Haditha Marines to face the ire of politicians playing couch commando based on nothing more than a slanted Time magazine article, the presiding officer ordered Tatum to face Court Martial despite recommendations that the evidence against him was weak at best.

The Government Blinks

For many months it was apparent that the government was squeezing Tatum to get at the real prize, Frank Wuterich. The presiding officer, Lt. Gen Samuel Helland had previously issued numerous orders for Tatum to talk; to provide the government more ammunition against Wuterich, the lone enlisted Marine still standing trial over his actions in Haditha. Helland's most recent order came just prior to Tatum's trial and accompanied threats of an additional charge of orders violations.

Calling the government's bluff, Tatum's attorney, Jack Zimmerman steadfastly refused to make his client available, citing broad overreaching by the government; horrendous misconduct that could result in his disbarment as a civilian attorney if he complied with that order.

In the end, the government blinked and decided not to prosecute Stephen Tatum for his actions in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2006. His charges were dismissed with prejudice in return for his continued cooperation with the government's "truth seeking process"; in other words, Tatum cannot be prosecuted in the future for any crimes related to the continuing witch hunt against Frank Wuterich, Jeff Chessani and Andrew Grayson.

The critical thing to remember here, is that Tatum was not granted immunity in return for his testimony. His charges were dropped. Zimmerman agrees that his client will be available to testify if called, which is his (and every Marine's) legal duty, but he emphasizes there was no deal struck with the government to get immunity for Tatum.

The government has a credibility problem on its hands that they have been unable to shed from the very beginning.

  • Five of 8 men have already been exonerated after their families were subject to financial ruin.

  • UAV footage, physical evidence, discredited Iraqi "eyewitness" testimony and intelligence shows that there was most certainly no massacre or cold-blooded murders as Tim McGirk, John Murtha and Thaer al Hadithi have suggested.

  • Iraqi eyewitnesses interviewed by the prosecution added absolutely nothing to the government's case. They removed, destroyed or repaired alleged physical evidence, were too afraid or unavailable to give their testimony or were found to be simply not credible.

  • The government ended up offering immunity to numerous Marines in return for their testimony against Wuterich, several of whom were originally charged, all of whom have been completely exonerated.

  • Three Marines --1 enlisted and 2 officers-- remain. Frank Wuterich is the only remaining Marine who actually participated in the that day still facing charges. His case is postponed indefinitely while the government scrambles to obtain enough information from Tatum's now voluntary testimony to nail him.

What is abundantly clear is that those presiding over these investigations are more interested in obtaining a conviction than seeking the truth. Lt. Gen. Helland likely never intended to prosecute Stephen Tatum. But he, the NCIS and military prosecutors simply held that threat over Tatum's head for 2 years - using bullying, threats of prosecution and coercion to extract what they could from Stephen Tatum to use against the other Marines. But as the dominoes fell and the government failed to obtain the damning evidence they were after, they had no choice.

Stephen Tatum's charges were dismissed with prejudice. It is long past time to do the same for Jeffrey Chessani, Andrew Grayson and Frank Wuterich. Perhaps then, John Murtha should also be dismissed with prejudice for his shameful pronouncement that these 8 men were guilty before any investigations were completed and fully 2 years before a single trial has been conducted.

Nothing could be more ironic than the people of Murtha's district turning the pork-laden congressional seat he has larded over to none other than one of the very Marines he unjustly smeared, Justin Sharratt. One can only hope...

Jayme Evans

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Biography - Jayme Evans

Jayme Evans is a veteran of the United States Navy, a military analyst, conservative opinion columnist, and an advocate for disabled and other veterans. He has served for many years as a Subject Matter Expert specializing in the testing of systems software for numerous major US organizations. He has extensively studied amateur astronomy and metallurgy, as well as military and US history. His brutally honest, in-your-face political commentary has been published in many west coast newspapers, and he is a regular contributing columnist to a multitude of internet sites, including WebCommentary.com, The Conservative Voice, and Conservative Crusader. Mr. Evans has also written guest editorials for Military Magazine, and he has been a frequent guest columnist on WorldNetDaily, writing about legislative and veteran's issues.


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