CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — 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 was sergeant for a scout sniper platoon. Though he had been previously deployed overseas, he was on his only combat deployment at the time. The Southold, N.Y., native is married with two children, but military officials declined to give his age.
The sergeant admitted to the judge that he urinated on one of the three corpses and posed in the "trophy photographs." He said he failed to supervise the Marines under him when the desecration began, even though he had been briefed that such behavior violated a Marine Corps general order.
"I was in a position to stop it and I did not. ... I should have spoken up on the spot," he said.
When asked by the judge why he did it, Deptola replied, "I have no excuse, no reason, ma'am. ... It was not the correct way to handle a human casualty."
The sergeant said that on the day the urination video was shot, the platoon had seen heavy action and had 11 confirmed kills, including the three Taliban men whose bodies were shown in the recording. Deptola said another sergeant in the platoon had been killed earlier that day by an IED, and the Marines believed the heavily armed Taliban fighters they killed could have been responsible for it.