This article is out of date. For the latest information regarding the outcome of the legal proceedings in this case, please view: A Sad Day for America and the Marine Corps—LtCol Chessani Retires
Thomas More Law Center Answers Prosecutor’s Appeal in LtCol Chessani Case
ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center, a national, public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yesterday filed its answer brief in response to the prosecution’s appeal of the Military Judge’s ruling, dismissing the case against LtCol Jeffrey Chessani, USMC based on unlawful command influence.
In its brief, the Law Center responded to the prosecution’s arguments, noting, “Unlawful command influence is ‘the mortal enemy of military justice.’ It is the acid that erodes an accused’s right to receive a fair trial and the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system. The nature of the military makes its system of justice extremely vulnerable to improper influences and pressures; influences and pressures that are systemic in a military command environment.” The Law Center urged the appellate court to affirm the Military Judge’s ruling. [Read the Law Center’s Answer Brief Here]
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, “This is an important case not only for LtCol Chessani, but for military commanders whose battlefield decisions should not be second-guessed by lawyers and for the military justice system as a whole. Indeed, the Haditha cases have caused a noticeable erosion of public confidence in our military system of justice. Affirming the Military Judge’s ruling will go a long way to restoring the public perception of fairness in the military courts.”
The appeal will be heard by a three-judge panel of the Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA), consisting of active duty Navy and Marine officers, sitting in Washington, D.C..
Given the importance of the legal issue involved and the intense public interest in the outcome of this case, the Law Center has also requested oral argument. If granted, the panel will likely hear arguments in early part of October 2008. It is anticipated that it will take approximately 4 to 6 months for NMCCA to render a decision.
If either side loses the appeal, they can request that the case be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), the highest court in the military justice system, consisting of five civilian judges.
Even if prosecutors lose in all the appellate courts, they can re-file the charges against LtCol Chessani.
LtCol Chessani has been under investigation and prosecution since March 2006 for his role as the battalion commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines during the November 19, 2005 battle of Haditha. On June 17, 2008, the Military Judge dismissed all charges against LtCol Chessani, resulting in this current appeal by the prosecutors.
If you would like to contribute to the LtCol Chessani Defense Fund, please click here.
The Thomas More Law Center fights in our courts to preserve America’s Christian heritage and moral values. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.
For the last two and a half years Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, USMC, has been investigated and prosecuted for his involvement in the so called “Haditha massacre” – a massacre that never happened.
Now – after devoting 20 years of his life to defend ours’ ─ he faces criminal charges as a result of a legitimate combat action taken by four of his Marines after being ambushed by insurgents in Haditha, Iraq, on November 19, 2005.
If convicted, he faces 2 ½ years imprisonment, dismissal from the Corps, and loss of all of his retirement pay.
You may have heard that last month a military judge dismissed all the charges against LtCol Chessani.
But the government appealed. And yesterday they filed their brief.
Jeffrey Chessani is their political scapegoat and they’re embarrassed about the loss.
We now have 20 days to file a response brief. Your donation now (click here) sends a message to all our combat troops that you will stand with them when they need your help.
It’s hard to believe the lengths to which the politicians in the Pentagon will go to convict an innocent Marine officer. As you read on you’ll know why.
After all he has done for his Nation ─ for you and me ─ will you chip in $25 to help this Marine? If you can give more, please do.
Click here to donate to the LtCol Chessani Defense Fund.
Your donation is tax-deductible.
He has been defending our Nation for twenty years…often away from his wife and children… so that we could be safely with ours.
LtCol Chessani served three combat tours in Iraq. He served in the First Persian Gulf War, and in Panama. He is a committed Christian, husband, and father of 6 young children, ages 10 and under.
I am certain that when you hear the facts, you will be as outraged as I am about what our government is doing to this courageous and loyal Marine.
So please read on…
On November 19, 2005, at approximately 7:15 a.m., a Marine convoy was rolling through Haditha, Iraq — a terrorist stronghold. Suddenly, a roadside bomb went off destroying a Marine Humvee, killing one Marine and seriously injuring two others.
The Marines immediately received fire from the ambushing insurgents, who were shooting from nearby civilian-occupied homes.
A four-man fire team responded as trained; they cleared several houses occupied by the armed insurgents, and in the ensuing room-by-room, house-by-house gun battle, it was reported that 8 enemy were killed.
Tragically 15 civilians also died ─ in urban combat, where insurgents purposefully use civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are tragic, but not uncommon. In fact, sometimes the insurgents themselves kill civilians to achieve a propaganda victory by blaming the Americans.
LtCol Chessani was the battalion commander of these brave Marines ─ the 3rd Battalion (“The Thundering Third”), 1st Marines—one of the most decorated units in the history of the Marine Corps.
As the Battalion Commander, LtCol Chessani was responsible that morning for approximately 2000 American and friendly Iraqi troops in an area of operations just about the size of South Carolina.
He immediately reported the deaths of the 15 civilian Iraqis to his superiors.
Not one of LtCol Chessani’s superiors hearing of the 15 civilian deaths ─ including top generals ─ considered it unusual. Not one ordered a further investigation.
However, several months later, an inflammatory Time news article accusing the Marines of massacring innocent civilians caused public hysteria. The story was planted by insurgent propaganda operatives who knew too well that the liberal anti-war media hungered for such stories.
Anti-war Congressman John Murtha, who wields tremendous power over military appropriations, jumped in and echoed Time’s story.
He appeared on major television networks and publicly accused the young enlisted Marines of “cold blooded” murder and Marine officers of a “cover-up.” He blamed it all on the stress of being in Iraq too long.
Incredibly, these accusations were made even before the investigation was completed.
It’s clear ─ the government has turned the prosecution of Jeffrey Chessani into a never-ending persecution.
The trumped-up charge: failing to properly report and investigate the November 19, 2005 incident.
The government is doing everything it can to convict LtCol Chessani. He is the political scapegoat they must convict to satisfy Murtha and the press.
The vast resources of the military are at its disposal. The number of military investigators is virtually limitless. Government prosecutors can go anywhere, talk to anyone, and get anything, all at government expense. The Marine command structure is mandated to cooperate.
So far, the government has spent millions of our taxpayer dollars, employed over 65 Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents ─ the largest investigation in that agency’s history ─ and granted immunity to scores of witnesses, all in their attempt to make Jeffrey and the “Haditha Marines” political scapegoats.
But I’m sure you know that the impact of this case reaches far beyond the personal tragedy and injustice to Jeffrey and his family.
Lt. Colonel Paul Ware, USMC, an Investigating Officer who heard testimony in several cases involving the charged enlisted Marines blasted the credibility of the government witnesses and expressed concern that the allegations were nothing but a tactic “to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq.”
He went on to say:
“Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy . . . .”
Retired General Thomas McInerney, former Joint Force Commander and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, called the prosecutions of the Haditha Marines “despicable.” He warned:
“We cannot fight a war like that . . . We’re not taking care of our people.”
Regardless of how you feel about the war, LtCol Chessani was in Iraq because his country sent him there. He defended us, now we must defend him.
Just to give you an idea what this Nation has lost by the prosecution of LtCol Chessani, and why he deserves your support, I want to give you a few excerpts from his official Combat Fitness Report.
This is a required annual evaluation of a Marine officer’s performance prepared by his superiors. It covers the period of September 2005 to February 2006 ─ which includes the date of the incident for which LtCol Chessani is facing criminal charges:
- “Leads Marines from front in every operation. Demonstrates moral courage everyday. Doesn’t hesitate to report bad news fast or contest unrealistic plans/poor concepts. Despite the complexity and size of his AO [area of operations], he always maintains a calm, cool demeanor.”
- “Always seeks advantage over complex, diverse insurgent enemy. Truly one of the finer thinkers in this COIN environment.”
- “One of the top 3” infantry/cavalry battalion commanders “of 13 who have served with RCT –2 [the regiment] during OIF. A superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business. Doesn’t attract a lot of fanfare; just gets the job done to an exceedingly high standard.”
- “Long ball hitter; recommend selection for promotion to Colonel and TLS [Top Level School].”
The Reviewing Officer, Major General Huck added his comments: “Top notch officer with outstanding potential. Promote and select for TLS [Top Level School]. Post TLS slate for Regimental command and subsequent joint tour. Unlimited potential and value to the Marine Corps. Capable of the most challenging assignments.”
One distorted magazine article has devastated the life and family of this patriotic Marine officer… and could adversely affect our military for years to come.
This case is about how our military fights and will fight in the future.
LtCol Chessani has willingly answered the call to serve his country. That’s why he deserves the support of every Patriotic American today.
President and Chief Counsel, Thomas More Law Center
P.S. It is urgent you donate now. We have 20 days to file our response to the government brief. We must also prepare for the inevitable trial. The successful defense of Jeffrey Chessani is vital to the security of America and to all our military personnel we place in harm’s way. Your donation is tax-deductible.
P.P.S. Please share LtCol Chessani’s story with others who will realize the gravity of this important case. Click here to forward this article to a friend now.