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The only officer to face charges in connection with the video showing scout snipers urinating on Taliban corpses in Afghanistan will face a special court-martial.
Capt. James Clement, the former executive officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, refused the nonjudicial punishment that was recommended following his April 10 Article 32 hearing. He will be tried for dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen for failing to stop the misconduct of junior Marines, according to a Marine Corps news release.
But John Dowd, his civilian defense attorney, said Clement faithfully and correctly carried out his assignment and responsibilities on that patrol, and that the captain “refuses to be a scapegoat for the political hysteria” surrounding the case.
A team of enlisted scout snipers assigned to 3/2 filmed themselves urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters during a 2011 deployment to Helmand province. The clip appeared on YouTube in January 2012 and created enormous backlash at home and in the war zone, embarrassed the Corps' senior leadership, and prompted its top general to tour the service preaching the importance of ethical behavior.
Clement is the seventh Marine to face disciplinary action in connection with that and other videos. He faced multiple charges, including accusations that he failed to stop the wrongdoing.
Lt. Col. Christopher Greer, the investigating officer during his Article 32 fact-finding hearing, dismissed most of the charges against Clement before and during the hearing. He recommended Clement receive NJP for failing to stop the Marines from firing their weapons.
Since Clement refused the NJP, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who as head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command has overseen each of these cases, had to decide whether the case would proceed to court-martial or be dismissed entirely. Mills referred the charges to special court-martial on Friday.
“This highly irregular and improper referral [to special court-martial] is the product of an effort by the Marine Corps leadership to force a plea to nonjudicial punishment to satisfy the political hysteria flowing from the ‘urination cases,’ ” Dowd said.
Media was not present at Clement’s Article 32 hearing. A last-minute schedule change moved the hearing up, but media were not alerted until a week later.
Marine Corps Times obtained a copy of a memorandum submitted by Clement’s defense during his Article 32 hearing that supported the officer’s position to dismiss the charges. The documents state that Clement did not witness the scout snipers urinating on the corpses. The memo includes statements from witnesses, including some of the scout snipers involved, who said there was “no way” Clement could have been aware of the incident. Therefore, the memo states, the captain could not have prevented it.
According to his sworn, handwritten statement, Clement said he was not aware of the videos or the desecration until it became public. The video was filmed July 27, 2011, in Sandala. As the company's XO, Clement would have been responsible for supervising the Marines depicted in it.
According to the memo, Clement volunteered to go out with the snipers on the patrol to serve as the communications officer in the hide site. From there, he would call in support to protect those on patrol, if needed. Clement had earphones on and could not move around without cutting off communications, the memo states.
There were questions during the enlisted Marines’ hearings about the use of excessive force, since no enemy fire could be seen on any of the videos recorded that day.
As communications officer, Clement was not in the tactical chain of command that day, the memo states. But he still spoke up and reported on the conduct of the Marines, according to the memo. The snipers were ordered to stop firing an enemy’s machine gun, and Clement later discussed with leadership an enlisted Marine’s apparent indiscriminate firing of a grenade launcher. Eventually, they concluded it was due to a malfunction.
He also ordered his Marines to “stop taking pictures to prevent an accidental picture of the enemy dead,” the memo states.
The Marine Corps has not yet set a date for Clement’s special court-martial.