Marines appeal dismissal of charges against Haditha leader Chessani

They had three days to do it and now they’ve done it. Frank Wuterich’s the only other defendant left, so if they want a scalp they have to hedge their bets with Chessani.

The Marine Corps is appealing a military judge’s decision to dismiss criminal charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani in the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005…

“This case has turned into the persecution of one of the Marines’ finest combat commanders,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Chessani.

Chessani, 44, is charged with dereliction of duty and failure to obey a direct order for not launching a war-crimes investigation into the killings…

In its filing with the appeals court, the prosecution did not cite any basis for its appeal. Folsom had given prosecutors three days to appeal his ruling. He also permitted the Marine Corps to refile the charges although he ruled that the refiling would have to be done by a new convening authority not connected to the Camp Pendleton-based Marine Forces Central Command.

Time for the ceremonial appeal to our military readers for guidance. If Chessani wins the appeal and central command is knocked out of the case, what other “convening authority” could file suit? Presumably any authority on any Marine base is connected to centcom, which means in effect that the entire Corps is excluded. Does that mean it falls to the Navy to decide whether to charge him? Hard to believe, given the political backlash against the prosecutions, that another branch would want to get involved, which I guess means if the appeal fails we should expect that he won’t be retried.

Update: His lawyers offer this detail on their website:

LtCol Chessani’s official 2006 Combat Fitness Report, which includes the time frame in which he is facing criminal charges, declared him “a superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business,” and recommended him for promotion. The reviewing Major General added, Lt. Colonel Chessani has “unlimited potential and value to the Marine Corps,” and also recommended him for promotion.