CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Marine who pleaded guilty Wednesday to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan probably will 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 violating orders by desecrating remains and posing for photographs with corpses, as well as dereliction of duty by failing to properly supervise junior Marines.
The judge, Lt. Col. Nicole Hudspeth, would have sentenced him to six months of confinement, a $5,000 fine, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge. But she is bound by the terms of the plea agreement Deptola reached with military prosecutors. A general will review the sentence and could choose to lower it.
Deptola and another Marine from Camp LeJeune were charged last year after video surfaced showing four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in July 2011.
Deptola 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.
Deptola 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. Deptola said another sergeant in the platoon had been killed earlier that day by an improvised explosive device, and the Marines thought the heavily armed Taliban fighters they killed could have been responsible.
Deptola's African-American defense attorney, Maj. Tracey Holtshirley, called the case a "lynching" by the media and the general public for an isolated mistake by a well-regarded Marine. He argued that Deptola had already been punished enough by the attention and by being removed from his platoon. He said he should be demoted two ranks to corporal.
Other Marines involved have received lesser sentences.