[JURIST] A former US Marine filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday alleging that US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) [official website] defamed him and violated his constitutional rights by suggesting that he had participated in killing innocent Iraqi civilians. In a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania [official website], former Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt [defense website] accused Murtha of slandering him by saying in televised comments [CNN report and video; JURIST report] that Marines had killed women and children "in cold blood" in the city of Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005. According to Sharratt's complaint,
Sharratt, as a direct result of Murtha's false, defamatory statements, has lost significant employment opportunities. … Sharratt, also as a direct result of Murtha’s false, defamatory statements, has lost and will continue to lose significant associational opportunities. … Sharratt, in being labeled repeatedly by Murtha as a "cold-blooded murderer", and by Murtha outrageously claiming that the Haditha incident was comparable to the infamous My Lei massacre of Vietnam, has suffered permanent, irreversible damage to his reputation.
Murder charges against Sharratt were dismissed last year after an investigating officer concluded [JURIST reports] that witness testimony against him was unreliable and that forensic evidence tended to support his version of the events. Murtha's office did not comment on Sharratt's lawsuit. AP has more. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has local coverage.
Sharratt's lawsuit is the second arising from Murtha's comments about the Haditha killings. In 2006, Marine Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website; Time profile], then under investigation in connection with the killings, sued Murtha for alleged defamation and invasion of privacy. A federal district judge last year refused to dismiss that lawsuit [JURIST report] and ordered Murtha to give a deposition. Responding to that lawsuit, Murtha said [press release] his remarks were intended "to draw attention to the horrendous pressure put on our troops in Iraq and to the cover-up of the incident." Wuterich, who commanded the unit implicated in the killings, was charged last year with voluntary manslaughter and related offenses, but his court-martial was postponed indefinitely [JURIST reports] this past March. In June, a court-martial acquitted a Marine intelligence officer of various charges related to the killings, and charges against five other Marines have been dropped [JURIST reports].