CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Marine who pleaded guilty Wednesday to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan will likely be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a much harsher sentence.
Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola pleaded guilty to multiple charges at court-martial, including that of violating orders by desecrating remains and posing for photographs with the corpses; and dereliction of duty by failing to properly supervise junior Marines.
The judge, Lt. Col. Nicole Hudspeth, said she would have sentenced him to six months confinement, a $5,000 fine, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge. But she is bound by terms of the plea agreement the sergeant reached with military prosecutors. A general will review the sentence and could choose to lower it.
Deptola and another Marine based at Camp LeJeune were charged last year after a video surfaced showing four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in July 2011. In the video, one of the Marines looked down at the bodies and quipped, “Have a good day, buddy.”
Deptola’s defense attorney, Maj. Tracey Holtshirley, called the case a “lynching” by the news media and general public for an isolated mistake by a well-regarded Marine. He argued Deptola had already been punished enough by the attention and being removed from his platoon. He said he should be demoted two ranks to corporal.
Other Marines involved have received lesser sentences. Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin pleaded guilty to similar charges last month. Under a deal reached before his court-martial, he lost $500 in pay and was reduced in rank to sergeant. Three other Marines were given administrative punishments for their roles.