Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who pleaded guilty of dereliction of duty in connection with the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha, apologized during his sentencing hearing yesterday.
"The 31-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine apologized for the loss of their loved ones and said he never intended to harm them or their families. He went on to tell the court that his guilty plea in no way suggests that his squad behaved badly or dishonorably.
"'But even with the best intentions, sometimes combat actions can cause tragic results,' Wuterich said in an unsworn statement."
The military judge presiding over the case said he planned to recommend the maximum sentence allowed: 90 days of confinement.
"It's difficult for the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts in this case," Lt. Col. David Jones told Wuterich, according to The Los Angeles Times.
But when the judge opened the plea deal, he found that it indicated Wuterich could receive a drop in rank but could not serve any time in jail.
The Times adds:
"The lack of trial convictions in the Haditha case is likely to further inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq, as well as fuel criticism by some legal analysts of the 6-year-long investigation and prosecution.
"A Marine Corps spokesman said Waldhauser would offer no public explanation of his decision to accept the plea bargain and stipulate that Wuterich receive no jail time.
"A doctrine of military law says that "the conviction can be seen as the punishment," Jones noted to jurors at the beginning of the court-martial proceedings."
As we reported, Wuterich pleaded guilty on Monday. It was an abrupt end the biggest war crimes case to come out of the war in Iraq.