WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps combat veteran at the center of controversy when a video surfaced showing Marines urinating on Taliban corpses was found dead Wednesday night, according to a report in the Marine Corps Times.
Retired Cpl. Robert Richards, 28, died at his home in Jacksonville, N.C., according to Guy Womack, his attorney and friend. An autopsy is being conducted, Womack said, adding that the cause of death does not appear to be self-inflicted. A medical examiner will look at the mix of medication Richards was taking, he told the paper.
Richards pleaded guilty to failing to obey a lawful order and violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was reduced one pay grade but avoided jail or a bad-conduct discharge and was later medically retired.
Three Marines were given nonjudicial punishments for their role in the July 2011 incident, and two Marines — Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin and Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola — pleaded guilty to related charges at their own courts martial.
The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against the only officer implicated in the video, Capt. James Clement, but he was involuntary separated from the service early this year.
The case was also noteworthy because the commandant, Gen. James Amos, faced allegations that he had sought to improperly intervene in the case.
In a video on the Military Times website, Richards wearily explained what led up to the incident.
“I’m really tired of explaining why we pissed on them. What led up to it — what really led up to it is, they desecrated one of our Marines,” he said, noting that militants had spread a dead Marine’s body parts around, even planting another IED near some of them to try to kill Marine investigators.
He stressed that it was the wrong thing to do but said a civilian could never understand.
“When you’re under that much stress, and you’re in that environment, your whole mental being changes,” he said. “You’re no longer Joe the Family Man.”
Richards is survived by his wife, Raechel. He is expected to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, Womack told the Times.