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US Marine officer accused in Haditha probe rejects 'cover-up' plea bargain

[JURIST] A lawyer for US Marine First Lt. Andrew Grayson, an intelligence officer accused of mishandling an investigation into the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], said Monday that Grayson has rejected a plea offer from military prosecutors requiring him to admit attempting to cover up the killings in exchange for prosecutors dropping all charges. Grayson, accused of making a false official statement, obstructing justice, and dereliction of duty, allegedly ordered a subordinate to delete photographic evidence [JURIST report] taken hours after the killings to keep it out of a report being prepared for top-ranking officers and a reporter. Grayson will now likely face a Article 32 [JAG backgrounder] hearing in November. AP has more.

The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. In August, preliminary Article 32 hearings began for US Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website], who commanded the platoon implicated in the killing and suspected cover-up. He faces several counts of unpremeditated murder, as well as charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement. Also in August, a hearing officer recommended [JURIST report] that murder charges be dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum [advocacy profile] for his role in the Haditha incident. The hearing officer argued there was insufficient evidence to support bringing Tatum to court-martial on charges of unpremeditated murder, negligent homicide and assault [USMC charge list]. A final decision on Tatum's case has not yet been made. An official report on the Haditha incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command.

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