A lawyer for a Marine facing criminal charges for a YouTube video showing platoon members urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan said the sergeant acted in poor taste, but did not desecrate the bodies.
Sgt. Robert W. Richards filmed himself and three other Marines relieving themselves on the corpses during a July 2011 mission deep into a Taliban safe haven, Marine prosecutor Maj. Michael Libretto said during a hearing Tuesday at Camp Lejeune.
Richards is facing an Article 32 hearing, which will determine if there's evidence to proceed to a court-martial. Two other Marines have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced in the case, while a fourth was charged at the same time as Richards.
Richards faces several charges, including dereliction of duty and violating orders.
The video, which received international condemnation, shows four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three Afghans. One of the Marines in the video looked down at the bodies and quipped, "Have a good day, buddy."
During opening statements, Libretto said the July 27, 2011, mission took nearly 20 Marines in a scout sniper platoon into a very hostile area.
Richards and the other Marines were letting off steam by urinating on the bodies and did nothing to mutilate them, said civilian defense lawyer Guy Womack, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel.
"It was black humor," Womack said. "It was in poor taste. We're not saying it was OK, but it was not desecration."
One of the other Marines who already pleaded guilty, Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, said another sergeant in the platoon had been killed earlier that day by an IED, and the angry Marines believed the heavily armed Taliban fighters they killed could have been responsible for it. Under the terms of his pre-trial plea agreement, Deptola was to be demoted one rank.
Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, who pleaded guilty in December, was reduced in rank to sergeant and fined $500.
The fourth Marine in the case, Capt. James V. Clement, faces charges that include conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman for failing to properly supervise junior Marines and making false statements to investigators. Clement was the executive officer of the Marine battalion in Afghanistan.