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Friday, May 04, 2007

First Haditha Article 32 Hearing Set for Tuesday

It's official. The USMC has posted a press release announcing the first Article 32 hearing for the Marines accused in the Haditha incident.

The Article 32 Investigation hearing for Capt. Randy W. Stone will be held Tuesday at 9 a.m. here.
Stone is charged with violation of a lawful order and dereliction of duty.
Stone is one of four officers who were charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for their alleged failure to investigate and report the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians following an improvised explosive device and small arms attack on a Marine convoy in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005.
The Investigating Officer is Maj. Thomas McCann.

Interesting to note that Maj. Thomas McCann is now listed as the investigating officer. Up to the issuance of the Press Release, the Investigating Officer was set to be Lt. Col William Pigott. Pigott was involved in the Article 32 Hearing for 2nd Lt. Nathan Phan and even got into a shouting match with 2nd Lt Phan's attorney, David Shelton.

Phan's five-day court session ended with the hearing officer, Lt. Col. William Pigott, shouting at Sheldon. The outburst came after Sheldon said he intended to appeal several of Pigott's rulings and file a complaint over the officer's conduct throughout the hearing.

Pigott wasn't the only connection between 2nd Lt Phan's hearing and the Haditha Marines... Phan's hearing brought to light allegations of "fabricated statements" from the NCIS that were pretty damning to Phan's defense. NCIS' tactics may also be an issue in the Haditha Marines' hearings.

During a tumultuous hearing in January to determine whether Phan should face trial, several enlisted Marines testified that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service fabricated statements implicating the 26-year-old Sacramento native in the assaults.

Since the charges against Capt. Stone revolve around the reporting of the actual incident, this could set the tone for the trials for the other officers. The hearings for the remaining Marines have been postponed several times despite the media's reporting as if the soldiers had been tried, convicted and sentenced.

It's time these Marines had their day in Military Court instead of the Court of Public Opinion.

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