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Hearing underway at Lejeune in urination case

By Associated Press
WCTI Staff
Published On: Mar 19 2013 06:29:47 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 19 2013 06:27:06 PM CDT
CAMP LEJEUNE -

The investigating officer for a case involving several Marines accused of desecrating Taliban corpses has not yet been met.

One Marine, 27-year-old Sgt. Robert W. Richards, had his Article 32 hearing aboard Camp Lejeune Tuesday for his involvement in the case.

Six Marines who were involved in the July 27, 2011 mission testified and shared accounts of what happened the day Richards allegedly took part in urinating on Taliban soldiers who were killed during an engagement that morning.

Videos and photos surfaced on YouTube of several Marines taking part in this, which sparked an investigation by the Marine Corps.

Richards is also accused of throwing a fragment grenade into a compound near the Marines' hide site in Sandala, Afghanistan. What was heavily discussed in the hearing was whether Richards had a positive identification on a valid military target when throwing this grenade.

Sgt. Edward Deptola was the first to testify Monday morning. He says he took a video recording of Richards throwing the grenade over a wall into a compound. Richards claims he saw the enemy run into the compound, but then lost sight of them. Also in the video, the two saw blue smoke rising from behind the compound. Deptola says that's a sign the enemy was nearby.

Several others testified in defining positive identification, which is identifying an enemy target by observing hostile or potentially hostile behavior. They also showed videos of Marines firing rounds at other compounds from the hide site, even though several officers say the enemy wasn't firing.

Richards chose not to make any statements during the hearing. His defense attorney argued that the actions of urinating on the Taliban corpses was in poor taste, but not desecration.

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) - A Marine facing criminal charges over a YouTube video showing platoon members urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is scheduled to appear in Camp Lejeune courtroom.
    
The Marine Corps says the Article 32 hearing for Sgt. Robert W. Richards is scheduled for Tuesday. Richards faces several charges, including dereliction of duty and violating orders. Military prosecutors said he filmed himself and others urinating on the corpses.
    
The hearing will result in a recommendation to Lt. Gen. Richard Mills to determine if there's evidence to proceed to a court-martial.
    
Two other Marines have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced in the case. A fourth Marine was charged at the same time as Richards.
    
The Marine Corps said the urination took place during a counterinsurgency operation in Helmand province.