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Charges dropped against captain in urination case, but career in limbo

Sep. 6, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against Capt. James Clement, the only officer implicated in the video depicting Marines urinating on dead insurgents.
The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against Capt. James Clement, the only officer implicated in the video depicting Marines urinating on dead insurgents. (File)
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Maj. James Weirick (File)

The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against the only officer implicated in the video depicting Marines urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan, but he will still faces possible involuntary separation from the service.

Capt. James Clement was notified Friday that the Corps will instead take him to a Board of Inquiry and decide what administrative punishment is warranted for “substandard performance of duty, misconduct, and moral or professional dereliction” in connection with the case. He had been charged with dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer following an investigation into the video, which showed four enlisted scout snipers with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., urinating on dead insurgents in Musa Qala, Afghanistan, on July 27, 2011.

Clement’s defense team had been preparing for a court-martial scheduled in November, and maintained that he did nothing wrong that day. They expected to hear testimony on Sept. 11 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from Col. Jesse Gruter and Maj. James Weirick, two Marine staff judge advocates who have raised repeated concerns about unlawful command influence by senior officials at Marine Corps headquarters in all of the urination cases.

Weirick filed an explosive inspector general complaint in March that accused Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, or others acting on his behalf, of deliberating and unlawfully seeking to exert influence on the cases of Clement and the seven other Marines who faced disciplinary action following the investigation. Weirick, acting as a whistle-blower, also alleged that senior Marine officials sought to cover up their involvement in the cases.

Clement’s civilian lawyer, John Dowd, said their defense team had proven Clement did nothing wrong, and expressed frustration the Corps was dropping the charges in favor of administrative proceedings.

“The charges never should have been brought in the first place, and we clearly demonstrated that. We’ll demonstrate that again in the Board of Inquiry,” Dowd said. “This is sore losing. This is not classy, and it doesn’t stand with the excellence the Marine Corps is known for.”

The Corps’ controversial handling of the legal cases has generated interest in the national media, on Capitol Hill and across the Corps. Clement’s lawyers filed a motion in July to dismiss his case on the grounds of unlawful influence. The motion included a signed declaration from Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who acknowledged that he was removed as the consolidated disposition authority overseeing all the legal cases after he had a disagreement with the commandant over how much punishment was warranted. The commandant told Waldhauser he wanted all of the Marines involved “crushed,” the three-star general’s declaration states.

Weirick and Gruter served as attorneys for Waldhauser’s replacement overseeing the cases, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills. In emails obtained by Marine Corps Times, both lawyers raised numerous concerns about the handling of the cases by Marine Corps headquarters prior to Weirick filing his complaint.

A spokesman for the Corps on the cases, Col. Sean Gibson, has maintained that the Corps has made sure that the legal rights of all of the accused in the urination cases have been upheld. Reached Sept. 6, he declined to comment on the criminal case being dropped.

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