CAMP PENDLETON, Calif - A US Marine sergeant accused of leading a 2005 massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, was spared jail time on Tuesday for his role the killings that brought international condemnation of American troops.
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, was sentenced instead to a demotion to the rank of private, the lowest rank in the service, a day after he pleaded guilty to a single count of dereliction of duty.
Wuterich, who could have faced a maximum penalty of three months in confinement, showed no emotion as a military judge pronounced his sentence.
More serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault had already been dismissed as part of a plea deal, which cut short Wuterich's court-martial and was decried by a victim's relative as "an insult to all Iraqis."
As part of his guilty plea, Wuterich accepted responsibility for providing negligent verbal instructions to the Marines under his command when he told them to "shoot first and ask questions later," which resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians.
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