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Whistleblower set to testify in Marine Corps urination video case

Sep. 6, 2013 - 05:07PM   |  
Maj. James Weirick will testify for the defense at a hearing Wednesday in the case of Capt. James Clement. In a complaint to the Defense Department inspector general, Weirick has alleged that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos exercised unlawful command influence in Clement's case.
Maj. James Weirick will testify for the defense at a hearing Wednesday in the case of Capt. James Clement. In a complaint to the Defense Department inspector general, Weirick has alleged that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos exercised unlawful command influence in Clement's case. (Courtesy of Maj. James Weirick)
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The whistle-blower who accused the Marine Corps commandant and his top advisers of unlawfully meddling in court cases to ensure harsh punishments for those charged in connection with a video of Marines urinating on dead insurgents will testify in one of the cases.

Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va., will take the stand Wednesday in a court hearing at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the case of Capt. James Clement, Weirick said. Clement is the only officer charged in connection with the video, which created an international uproar last year after it was posted online.

Clement is accused of dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer following an investigation into the video, which showed four enlisted scout snipers in 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, urinating on dead insurgents in Musa Qala, Afghanistan, on July 27, 2011. Seven enlisted Marines also faced charges; their cases all have been resolved.

A motion filed in Clement’s case by his lawyers, Maj. Joseph Grimm and civilian John Dowd, requested that Weirick and his former boss at Combat Development Command, Col. Jesse Gruter, testify in person during the hearing. Clement’s motion states that both Marine attorneys received immunity to testify Aug. 6 from Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who oversaw all scout sniper legal proceedings until recently transitioning from being the commanding general at MCCDC to the top officer at Marine Corps Forces Reserve, with headquarters in New Orleans.

Weirick filed a complaint with the Pentagon’s inspector general in March alleging that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, or others acting on his behalf, deliberately sought to manipulate the legal process for all eight Marines charged following the investigation, and then cover up any involvement afterward. The explosive allegations generated interest in the national media, on Capitol Hill, and across the Corps.

Clement’s lawyers filed a motion in June saying the captain’s case should be dismissed on the grounds of unlawful command influence. They allege the Marine Corps sought to block them from accessing evidence in the case, and allege it could have exonerated their client. A Marine spokesman for the cases, Col. Sean Gibson, has said the government takes its discovery obligations seriously, and that the legal rights of those accused in the urination cases “have been protected throughout every step of the military justice process.”

Clement’s Article 32 hearing was held in April. Afterward, the investigating officer recommended he receive nonjudicial punishment. Clement refused, setting the stage for a court-martial that is now scheduled for November.

In emails obtained by Marine Corps Times, Gruter and Weirick raised numerous concerns about the handling of the cases by Marine Corps headquarters prior to Weirick filing his complaint. It wasn’t clear if Gruter also will testify in the hearing Wednesday.

Both attorneys allege they’ve come under fire from senior Marine officials as a result of Weirick’s complaint, according to emails and other documents obtained by Marine Corps Times as part of a months-long investigation into the allegations surrounding the commandant.

In one example, Col. Mark Jamison, a staff judge advocate for the commandant, pressed Gruter to remove Weirick from the cases after the IG complaint was filed, Weirick alleges in an Aug. 7 email to another Marine attorney, Maj. Michael Libretto. The email is contained in a recent legal motion seeking dismissal of the case against Clement.

Weirick’s email is in response to Libretto’s request to meet for an interview about the Clement case. Weirick declined, saying Jamison had never retracted an allegation that Weirick violated attorney-client privilege with the Corps by becoming a whistle-blower.

Gruter, who is copied on Weirick’s response to Libretto, weighed in via email as well, saying he, too, remembers Jamison’s alleged accusation. Gruter’s email says Jamison insisted Weirick “should be counseled in writing and be required to respond in writing” for filing the IG complaint.

Weirick filed a separate reprisal complaint with the Pentagon IG on May 24. In it, he alleges Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, the staff judge advocate to the commandant, and Robert Hogue, the commandant’s top civilian attorney, lodged a professional misconduct complaint against Gruter and canceled his next assignment as punishment for Weirick reaching out to Congress about his IG complaint.

“My fear is that unfavorable personnel action will be taken against my Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, as a result of my protected communications,” Weirick says in the reprisal complaint. “I do recognize it sounds somewhat strange for a major to be worried that a Lt. Gen. will be retaliated against for the major’s actions. But this entire matter has continued to escalate as a result of my original DoD IG complaint. It is my belief that the Commandant’s staff is retaliating against members of my chain of command as a direct result of my protected communications.”

Gibson, the Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times last month that it would be “improper to comment on any statements, testimony, or credibility of possible witnesses” in Clement’s case, and referred all questions about Weirick’s IG complaint to Defense Department Inspector General Lynne Halbrooks. A spokeswoman for the IG, Bridget Serchak, also has declined to comment on the case, and the commandant’s office has declined to address Weirick’s allegations.

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