A military court of appeals on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Marine sniper who was originally convicted for urinating over the dead bodies of Taliban fighters.
The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that the then-commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Jim Amos had tried to interfere in the case to increase the severity of punishment for any Marines who had been caught up in the incident, Military.com reports.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin was on a promising career trajectory, until he appeared in a viral video of Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. In December 2012, he lost pay, was confined for 30 days and reduced in rank to sergeant. The incident caused major embarrassment for the Marine Corps, which absolutely infuriated Amos, causing him to push for even more punishment.
Then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The New York Times that “This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.” The Atlantic noted in January 2012 that the incident might later become known as one of the defining moments of the war in Afghanistan.
But this interference led then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser to blow the whistle in 2012 with an affidavit stating that Amos had informed him that any Marine caught up in the case should be “crushed” and kicked out of the Marine Corps.
Waldhauser said that Amos asked him to make sure courts-martial was on the table for all the Marines, and when Waldhauser declined, Amos reportedly said he would get someone else to oversee the cases instead. Amos followed through on that threat, appointing then-Lt. Gen. Richard Mills just two days later.
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told [Waldhauser] that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,’ ” the court stated, according to Military.com. “This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI [unlawful command influence]. We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding.”
“A member of the public, aware of these facts and this assessment from the [oversight authority’s staff judge advocate], would lose confidence in the fair processing of this case,” the court noted.
Given the egregious level of unlawful command influence, the court dismissed the case with prejudice.
The government has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
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