Ar­rests ruled un­law­ful in hu­man smug­gling case against Marines

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By An­drew Dyer

CAMP PENDLE­TON — Mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors dropped hu­man traf­fick­ing and drug charges against most of the two dozen Marines re­cently ar­rested in front of their Camp Pendle­ton bat­tal­ion, days af­ter a court ruled those ar­rests were an un­law­ful vi­o­la­tion of their rights, Marine Corps of­fi­cials con­firmed Tues­day.

The Marines’ cases will be dealt with ad­min­is­tra­tively, out­side the mil­i­tary court sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to a 1st Marine Divi­sion state­ment. Many of them will be dis­charged from the Marines.

“Thir­teen Marines sub­mit­ted and have ap­proved pre­trial agree­ments re­quest­ing sep­a­ra­tion in lieu of courts-mar­tial or waiv­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive sep­a­ra­tion boards,” the Marines state­ment said.

Also six Marines have pleaded guilty at courts-mar­tial, and four still face crim­i­nal charges, the state­ment said.

Un­til now, the Marines had not an­swered ques­tions or re­sponded to re­quests for in­for­ma­tion about the cases by The San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

The July 25 ar­rests were cap­tured on video by the Marine Corps and first pub­lished by the Union-Tri­bune in Novem­ber.

At first 16 Marines were called to the front of their unit — 1st Bat­tal­ion, 5th Marines — and ac­cused of hu­man smug­gling. They were ar­rested by a swarm of 40 to 50 law en­force­ment agents and marched away in hand­cuffs.

An­other eight Marines sus­pected of un­spec­i­fied drug of­fenses also were taken out of for­ma­tion. Some of them were de­tained by bat­tal­ion per­son­nel and taken to the Camp Pendle­ton brig, said Lt. Col. Eric Olson, the bat­tal­ion com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, dur­ing tes­ti­mony at a court hear­ing Nov. 15.

Three video clips show the July 25 ar­rest of Marines from 1st Bat­tal­ion, 5th Marine Reg­i­ment.

Marines in the for­ma­tion that day tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing that their com­man­ders called the ac­cused Marines a “can­cer” on the bat­tal­ion.

The cases against the Marines fell apart af­ter that hear­ing. The judge ruled the mass ar­rest — con­ducted in front of an 800per­son bat­tal­ion — was an un­law­ful vi­o­la­tion of their rights, at­tor­neys in­volved in two of the cases said.

Marine Capt. Charles Whit­man, who rep­re­sents a Marine charged with drug of­fenses, suc­cess­fully ar­gued that the ar­rests amounted to un­law­ful com­mand in­flu­ence.

Un­law­ful com­mand in­flu­ence, of­ten called the “mor­tal en­emy of mil­i­tary jus­tice,” oc­curs when a com­man­der uses his po­si­tion of au­thor­ity to in­flu­ence court pro­ceed­ings. Com­man­ders have au­thor­ity over courts-mar­tial and there­fore are ex­pected to re­main im­par­tial dur­ing the process.

U.S. MARINE CORPS

Screen­shot shows mil­i­tary law en­force­ment, in­clud­ing NCIS, hand­cuff, search and lead away de­tained Marines in front of their peers at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendle­ton in Cal­i­for­nia.

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