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A staff noncommissioned officer at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was busted to sergeant and ordered to forfeit $500 after he plead guilty to two charges tied to the 2011 incident where a scout-sniper unit videotaped themselves urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters, the Marine Corps announced Thursday.
Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, a scout-sniper and infantry unit leader assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, pleaded guilty Wednesday to dereliction of duty for failing to properly supervise junior Marines and wrongfully posing for photographs with human casualties and to wrongfully urinating on the body of a deceased enemy combatant, said Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine Corps Combat Development Command spokesman in Quantico, Va.
Under a pretrial agreement signed off by MCCDC's commander, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the maximum sentence Chamblin could get is reduction to E-5 sergeant and forfeitures of $500 for one month.
That is far less punishment than the sentence the military judge, Col. Bill Riggs, issued at the special court-martial on Wednesday: Thirty days in confinement, 60 days of restriction, $500 in monthly forfeitures for six months, a $2,000 fine and reduction to E-3 lance corporal. Under military law, in cases with plea deals, the defendant gets the lesser of the punishment.
Chamblin, 35, who was charged with seven counts, had waived his right to have his case heard before a military jury. He made an unsworn statement during the court proceeding before the judge ruled on his sentence, according to his defense attorney.
"Through his guilty plea, Staff Sergeant Chamblin has fully accepted responsibility for his actions related to the unfortunate video," Maj. Adam M. King said Thursday. Chamblin "is thankful for his many supporters and deeply regrets the effect that this incident has had on fellow service members, particularly the Marines and sailors he led and served alongside in combat."
The incident allegedly took place July 27, 2011, during a counter-insurgency operation near Sandala in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province. A 39-second video of the incident surfaced Jan. 10 and it drew worldwide attention and condemnation from top military leaders. An investigation quickly identified four Marines seen in the video.
Chamblin, who enlisted in August 1995, deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan — most recently from March to October 2001 — during 14 years of active service, which included a deployment to Albania in spring 2001, according to his attorney. He was discharged in 1999 but later joined the reserves and returned to active duty in February 2003. He has two Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat V and two Combat Action Ribbons among his more than two dozen awards.
Chamblin is one of several staff NCOs and NCOs assigned or attached to 3/2 during the 2011 deployment who have been charged in connection with the incident.
In August, two NCOs received nonjudicial punishment after pleading guilty to several charges, including taking photographs of and posing with dead bodies, according to the Marine Corps. One staff NCO pleaded guilty to failing to report the mistreatment of the casualties and lying to Naval Criminal Investigators about the video incident. Officials have not released their names because NJP is considered an administrative action.
"There are other pending cases related to this incident," Gibson said in a statement.
Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola is awaiting a special court-martial on the same charges that Chamblin faced originally: Failing to properly supervise junior Marines, failing to require they wear their proper personal protective equipment, failing to report the misconduct of junior Marines, failing to report the negligent discharge of a grenade launcher and failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons. The Marine Corps hasn't announced a start date for the trial.