CAMP PENDLETON (CBS) — A U.S. Marine squad leader accepted a plea deal on Monday in a move that signals the abrupt end to a case that has done little to boost America’s military reputation around the world.

KNX 1070’s Tom Reopelle reports a guilty plea cut short the nearly 7-year-old manslaughter case stemming from the deaths of 24 Iraqis.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn., entered a guilty plea at Camp Pendleton to dereliction of duty, while all other charges were dropped.

Wuterich was a squad leader among several troops involved in a mass killing that included Iraqi women and children after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and injured two others in Haditha in 2005.

“This is the end of a difficult trial and a very troubling event in American history,” said former Marine judge advocate Gary Solis. “The case ends not with a bang but with a whimper, and a weak one at that.”

Federal prosecutors were forced to cut a deal after their own witnesses testified in favor of Wuterich.

He could face up to three months imprisonment along with a forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay and a rank demotion when he faces sentencing later this week.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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