Hearing concludes for Marine accused of urinating on Taliban bodies
By JENNIFER HLAD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 19, 2013
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — There’s no question that Sgt. Robert Richards is one of the four Marines pictured posing with the bodies of dead Taliban fighters and urinating on their corpses.
But, after a daylong Article 32 hearing, investigating officer Lt. Col. Christopher Greer must now decide what charges, if any, Richards should face for that incident and for accusations of failing to properly supervise fellow Marines and using weapons indiscriminately.
Guy Womack, a retired military lawyer who is serving as Richards’ civilian attorney, told reporters after the hearing that Richards regrets urinating on the corpses and didn’t know someone was videotaping the incident at the time.
“To urinate on their dead bodies was wrong. It’s embarrassing to everyone,” Womack said. However, he said, the urination was “black humor” — not desecration.
The July 2011 incident caused an uproar after it was posted on YouTube in 2012.
That video was not shown in the courtroom Tuesday, but several other video clips were, including one of Richards lobbing a grenade over what was described as a 10-foot wall at someone Richards thought was an attacker; and another video in which Richards and other Marines are riding back to their patrol base with three bodies, confirmed as the same insurgents on whom the Marines had urinated, on top of an M1 tank.
One Marine in attendance, Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, said the Marines urinated on the bodies because “killing them wasn’t enough … because of what they had done to us in the past 10 years, and what all terrorists had done to us in the past 30 years.”
Deptola is one of two Marines who already pleaded guilty to related charges in a court martial. Three other Marines were punished in nonjudicial hearings in August.
When asked about an ethics program he created for the unit, Lt. Col. Christopher Dixon, commander of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at the time, testified over the phone that he had focused on moral decision-making during predeployment training and during the deployment itself — stressing “the harder right over the easier wrong.”
Dixon said he told the Marines that their actions could either win over the Afghan people “or create more insurgents.”
Many of the questions and testimony focused on the rules of engagement and whether the Marines adequately obtained and maintained positive identification of their targets. And, at times, the prosecution seemed to be hammering witnesses on their own behavior, rather than the behavior and decisions of Richards.
At the end of the hearing, prosecutor Maj. Michael Libretto urged Greer to consider that while Richards was the patrol leader, two senior staff non-commissioned officer and two officers were present at the time of the incidents.
Greer is not expected to offer his recommendations until at least Friday.
Military defense counsel Capt. Robert Boudreau and Sgt. Robert Richards leave the courtroom at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Tuesday. An Article 32 hearing was held to determine whether Sgt. Richards should face court martial for his role in Marines urinating on Taliban insurgents, and for accusations of failing to properly supervise fellow Marines and using weapons indiscriminately.
JENNIFER HLAD/STARS AND STRIPES