Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the only Marine convicted of a crime for his role in the killing of two dozen civilians in Iraq in 2005, will not go to jail after a plea deal dropped all of the most serious charges against him. Wuterich agreed to a deal on Monday that dropped nine charges of manslaughter in exchange for a guilty plea on one count of "negligent derelcition of duty." The military judge in his case had recommended the maximum sentence of three months for that charge saying, "It's difficult for the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts in this case," but the sealed terms of the deal had already stipulated that he would not serve time in jail. He will also have his rank reduced to private.
Wuterich and members of his unit killed 24 unarmed civilians, including some women and children, on November 19, 2005, after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb. Wuterich admitted that he ordered his squad to "shoot first, ask questions later" during a house-to-house sweep through the town of Haditha, but said he himself did not fire his weapon at women and children. Seven other members of his unit were also charged in the incident, but six had the charges dropped and the other was acquitted. Wuterich apologized to family members of the victims in court, but the final ruling has upset many who were expecting some sort of punishment for one of the darkest moments of the Iraq war.