Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani

An arraignment is scheduled today for a Marine officer who was condemned by anti-war U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for failing to investigate and report what the congressman claimed was the killing in “cold blood” of Iraqi civilians by a team of Marine soldiers.

The hearing is scheduled in a Camp Pendleton courtroom for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, who is being represented by The Thomas More Law Center on claims stemming from the so-called “Haditha Massacre.”

As WND reported earlier, his trial tentatively has been scheduled to begin April 28, 2008.

“We have the absurd situation of Lt. Col. Chessani being charged with failing to report and investigate a crime that never occurred,” said Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center. “Every American should be outraged at the way this dedicated Marine and his family are being treated by the nation he so loyally defended.”

Chessani faces criminal charges that he failed to properly report and investigate a possible “law of war” violation for the Nov. 19, 2005, house-to-house battle that involved four Marines from his battalion. If convicted, Chessani faces more than two years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and loss of all retirement benefits.

However, multiple investigations have revealed no wrong-doing by the 20-year Marine officer who served in the Panama Invasion, the Persian Gulf War and three tours in Iraq, the law center said.

“Every patriotic American has a stake in the outcome of this case,” Thompson continued. “A U.S. Army colonel and an Army general conducted two separate investigations, and came to the same conclusion: there was no ‘massacre’ and no ‘cover-up.’

“Yet the government still pursued a multi-million dollar investigation in order to appease an anti-war politician and the ‘blame America first’ media,” he said.

The law center reported the charges against Chessani “were incited by an inflammatory Time magazine headline accusing Marine enlisted men of ‘massacring innocent civilians.’ The story was planted by known terrorist propaganda operatives, and has since been discredited.

“Anti-war Congressman John Murtha, who holds major influence over military appropriations, in an unprecedented action publicly accused Marine officers of a ‘cover-up’ and enlisted men of killing ‘in cold blood’ even before the investigation of the incident was completed,” the law center said.

“Subsequent investigations have specifically found no ‘cover-up’ at any level of command, and have exonerated several of the Marines involved,” the law center said.

The charges stemmed from the actions of four Marines who came under fire from a coordinated al-Qaida-led ambush in Haditha. It was not long after 7 a.m. when an improvised explosive device exploded under one of the four Humvees in a supply convoy, killing one Marine and injuring two others.

Simultaneously the Marines came under gunfire from nearby homes, and the four-man Marine fire team was ordered to clear the houses of insurgents, and the resulting house-to-house firefight left 15 civilians dead, the law center said.

Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., confronted by Jason Mattera of Young America’s Foundation (Photo:

Murtha, however, has continued to stand by his accusations. He was confronted just weeks ago by a young activist near a Capitol Hill elevator, and was pressed on whether he would apologize for accusing U.S. Marines of murdering innocent civilians.

Jason Mattera of the Young America’s Foundation was captured on tape questioning Murtha, reported .

Now that charges have been dropped against two of the four Marines accused of murder, Mattera asked, “would you like to issue an apology for saying they killed innocent civilians in cold blood?”

“Is the trial still going on?” Murtha asked repeatedly as he made his way to the elevator.

After entering, the lawmaker made sure Mattera stayed out of the elevator.

“Do you like besmirching our troops, sir?” Mattera asked.

“Have you been in the service?” Murtha retorted. “I enlisted in Korea, and I enlisted in Vietnam …”

As the doors closed, Mattera is heard saying, “You accused them of murdering innocent civilians in cold blood. That’s something that would come from Al Jazeera, not a congressman, sir.”

Chessani’s career had been unblemished, the Thomas More Center said. In fact, as battalion commander of the Third Battalion, First Marines – one of the most decorated Units in the Marine Corps – Chessani was not at the scene of the firefight, but later traveled there to investigate and reported to every echelon of his chain of command.

For the following three months, not a single superior officer suspected a law of war violation, and Chessani was commended on a job well done.

However, when the Time magazine article appeared and Murtha lodged his accusations, Chessani was targeted, the law center said, despite his 2006 Combat Fitness Report declaring him to be “a superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business.”

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Previous stories:

Trial set for Haditha vet targeted by Murtha

Murtha cornered over Haditha charges

Haditha Marine’s hearing called ‘sham’

Court-martial recommended for Haditha Marine officer

Marine officer under fire gets support on 2 fronts

Marine hopes hearing will remove ‘Murtha taint’

Testimony leaves Murtha allegations wilting

Case against Marine blamed on Murtha politics

Arab newssite had false ‘Haditha massacre’ photo

Mom describes nightmare of Marine’s incarceration

Previous commentaries:

‘Cut and Run’ Murtha goes off half-cocked

Muttering madman Murtha

What Haditha portends

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