A US Marine pleaded guilty in a court martial today for his role in the infamous 2005 Haditha killings, the AP reports. Admitting to dereliction of duty, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich faces up to 3 months confinement, loss of pay, and demotion to private. Nine counts of manslaughter were dropped in his plea agreement. "No one denies that the events ... were tragic, most of all Frank Wuterich," his defense attorney said at Camp Pendleton. "But the fact of the matter is that he has now been totally exonerated of the homicide charges."
At issue was Wuterich's decision to lead his squad in an attack that killed 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and children. Prosecutors said the sight of his friend blown apart by a roadside bomb sent him into a rage. But a former platoon commander weakened their case by testifying that the assault fit rules of combat at the time. The longest-running criminal case against US troops in Iraq is now over; the other seven squad members all walked. (Read more Haditha stories.)