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Congressman asks SecDef to review officer's case in connection to urination video

Jul. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requesting that he examine the Marine Corps' case against Capt. James Clement. The officer's attorneys have filed a motion to have the case against their client dismissed.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requesting that he examine the Marine Corps' case against Capt. James Clement. The officer's attorneys have filed a motion to have the case against their client dismissed. ()
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A congressman has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review the legality of the case against the only officer to face trial in connection with a video showing Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.

Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican whose district includes Camp Lejeune, sent a letter to Hagel on Monday requesting that he examine the Marine Corps’ case against Capt. James Clement.

The letter follows a signed statement from a three-star general who said he was removed from the case after he refused to punish the Marines to the extent that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos saw fit. A copy of the statement made by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, whom Amos initially named to handle the cases, was obtained by Marine Corps Times last week.

Clement, the former executive officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, was charged in January following a Marine Corps investigation into a video showing four scout snipers in his chain of command urinating on dead Taliban fighters during a 2011 deployment. It surfaced online in January 2012, creating international uproar.

The captain is facing trial for dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen for failing to stop the misconduct of junior Marines. Following an Article 32 hearing in April, the investigating officer recommended that he receive nonjudicial punishment. Clement refused it.

His defense team filed a motion Friday to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the referral to special court-martial was unlawful.

Jones told Hagel that, after seeing the evidence and talking with attorneys involved in the case, he is certain Clement has been set up to take the fall for the indiscretions of others.

“To me, it is a tragedy when a young captain’s career and life are devastated due to unjustified charges and an unnecessary court-martial,” Jones wrote. “I believe it is imperative for us to combat corruption and keep the dignity and integrity of the Marine Corps intact.”

The congressman became interested in Clement’s case after Marine Corps Times reported that a Marine Corps lawyer had filed a complaint with the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office alleging that Amos manipulated the legal process in order to ensure tough punishments for the Marines.

During the Corps’ 2012 investigation into the incident, Clement told investigators he knew nothing about the video until it surfaced online, according to documents obtained by Marine Corps Times. John Dowd, his civilian defense attorney, has previously insisted that Clement faithfully and correctly carried out his assignment and responsibilities on that patrol.

Amos initially named Waldhauser, then head of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, to handle the cases. But in February 2012, he stripped Waldhauser of that responsibility and made Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the new consolidated disposition authority.

Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for MCCDC, said Amos and Waldhauser discussed the scout sniper investigation during a meeting in early February 2012. It was during that conversation, Gibson said, that the commandant realized he made comments to Waldhauser that could be perceived as interfering with the independence of the legal process.

“The commandant immediately realized that he had compromised the situation and took immediate action to ensure that the investigation and cases were given to an appropriate new convening authority who could exercise independent and unfettered discretion to take action in those cases,” Gibson said.

But the motion to dismiss the case that Clement’s defense counsel filed last week alleges that the actions by the commandant were unlawful. It states that the consolidated disposition authority — then Mills — “engaged in gamesmanship by repeatedly preferring charges without probable cause against Clement ... then dismissing them.”

It also states that neither Amos nor Waldhauser ever disclosed their conversation about the commandant’s push for harsher punishments. It wasn’t until after Clement’s defense counsel contacted Waldhauser and he agreed to an interview that they learned about this conversation between the three-star and the commandant, the motion states.

Gibson said Marine officials overseeing the case strongly disagree with most of the factual assertions made in Clement’s motion for dismissal.

“We look forward to responding and litigating this matter in court,” he added.

Gibson said the Corps will continue to be vigilant and transparent in preserving the military justice process.

“There was never any intent to manipulate the courts-martial system to undermine the rights of any Marine involved,” Gibson said. “The rights of the accused in these cases have been protected throughout every step of the military justice process.”

Jones appealed to Hagel — “as a man of fairness and integrity” — to view the evidence in the case for himself.

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