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Marine Jailed Over Memorial Day Weekend for Exercising 5th Amendment

    "Out of every 100 men, ten shouldn't even be there, Eighty are just targets, Nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back." - Hericletus, circa 500 BC

Update 3 (05-29-08):  Just heard about the hearing.  Sergeant Jermaine Nelson has been released from jail on the promise that he will "listen to the prosecutors' questions in the future and respond under direction from counsel."


I believe that doesn't mean much other than, of course, that this is not over.  Far from over.

The good news is that Sergeant Nelson will not have to spend another night with drug dealers and gangsters in jail.  Sergeant Nelson's attorney, Joseph Low, asked us to pass this on to you: "Please tell Blackfive that I think your efforts and supporters really made the difference here."

With less than 24 hours notice, dozens of emails were sent (including some from family members) and over 30 people showed up to support Sergeant Nelson.  Hopefully, we can post pictures soon.

Once again, this proves that you all are the best community on the planet.

Update 2 (05-29-08): The hearing will be at about 11am Pacific time today.  Stay tuned.  Will be posting some of your letters of support (minus identifying info) after the Jump.

Update 1 (05-28-08): It appears that the judge wants to move the hearing tomorrow to avoid the many military supporters who plan on attending.  WARNING ORDER:  Be ready to move to new hearing location.  I will post more information (when I receive any updates) right here.  Nothing changed.  Hearing will be as stated below.

    "Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an uplifted knife." - Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes

First of all, Sergeant Jermaine Nelson needs our support.  Second, he needs some help.  If anyone knows of a habeus corpus specialist in DC, email me.  More details on support are at the bottom of the post.

I have a few things brewing right now and this is one case where I need all of you to help out.  If you google about this case, you'll find a lot of information that contradicts the facts.  In fact, a few media stories have the incident in the wrong battle of Fallujah and have claimed that the house where the incident occurred was demolished, when in fact, it was not.  It's actually been reoccupied by it's original owners and visited by NCIS investigators.

Now, the story behind this mess...

Sergeant Jermaine Nelson enlisted in the Marines in 2001 at the age of 19.  Nelson was a member of 3rd Squard, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.  We have posted about them here several times as the Third Herd and their heroics have chronicled in many places.

Nelson's squad leader was Sgt. Jose Luis Nazario.  The others in the squad were Nelson, Ryan Weemer, Juan Segura, James Prentice, and Corey Carlisle.

On November 9th, D+2, 3/1 entered Fallujah as part of Operation Phantom Fury.  Weeks before, leaflets had been dropped into the city telling everyone to leave who didn't want a fight or who didn't want to die.  250,000 civilians fled Fallujah.  Intelligence estimates stated that a few thousand well armed, highly motivated Al Qaeda fighters occupied the city - the estimates also stated that the AQI fighters were most likely drugged to amp up their courage and energy and also that the terrorists knew our ROE and planned to use that knowledge to their advantage.

The mission of 3/1 was to protect the tanks entering the city by moving and fighting house to house.  One house, one block, one street at a time. Their fight, at times, was hand to hand. 

Sergeant Nazario's squad moved along Phase Line Henry.  They had been taking fire from a nearby house, when a sniper bullet struck home, between the SAPI plates in Lance Corporal Juan E. Segura's protective vest.  He died, bleeding out, holding the hand of Ryan Weemer, his room mate and best friend.

The Marines fought back and entered the house. 

Here, the accounts vary greatly.  What is not in contention is that four to eight insurgents occupied a house with weapons and ammo and spent casings.  Those insurgents had been shooting at the Marines and had killed Segura.   The Al Qaeda attempted surrender.

They died.

Later, the squad members had the opportunity to save each other - some more than once.  In fact, Ryan Weemer was in the Hell House where he was shot three times.  He survived that fight along side of Sergeant Major Brad Kasal whom you all should (damn well better) know.

The Thundering Third would have over 30 Marines killed in action and over 600 wounded.  The Marines suffered over 100 killed in Phantom Fury.  There are estimates that the Marines killed over 2.000 insurgents and captured 1,000.

Last July, Ryan Weemer, out of the active Marine Corps, was undergoing polygraph testing to serve as White House Secret Service security guard.  He was asked if he ever witnessed an unlawful death while in Fallujah.  He answered "yes".  According to affadavits, Nazario, Weemer and Nelson shot the insurgents.  The Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) had investigator Mark Fox look into the claims.   He spent fourteen months on the case.  I believe he is the same investigator on the Haditha case.  He seems to be focused on the Thundering Third. In fact, the first time he brought these charges, they were dropped by the Marines.  Now, after a change in command, he has brought them again and LTG Hellmand has ordered a court martial.

And it gets more murky as the civilian courts get involved...

Gidget Fuentes of the Marine Corps Times reports:

...In 2005, after fighting in Iraq and spending eight years in the Corps, Nazario joined the police department in Riverside, Calif., a growing city east of Los Angeles, where he and his wife settled with their new baby.

But today, from his parents’ house in upstate New York, his future, his finances and his freedom are in doubt.

Nazario, 28, was ending his police shift Aug. 7, 2007, when he was called into his supervisor’s office for bad news: He was facing federal felony charges of voluntary manslaughter for his part in shooting several men to death. Nazario and his infantry squad allegedly encountered the men inside a house during combat operations in Iraq...

Because Jose Nazario is a civilian, now, and no longer subject to recall by the Marines, NCIS agent Mark Fox asked the US District Attorney to charge Nazario with murder.  Nazario was working as a Riverside, California, Police Officer, when he was arrested.  Because he had less than 3 weeks before his probationary period was over, he was fired from the Riverside Police Department.

How can a former Marine be charged in a US court for an alleged crime in Iraq that occurred four years ago?

Jose Nazario has been charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) passed by Congress in 2000. MEJA allows a service member serving overseas to be prosecuted in civilian court for offenses that call for more than one year of imprisonment. 

And now a liberal court in California is trying to set a precedent by trying Sergeant Nazario.

During the week of March 21st, Ryan Weemer was recalled to active duty by the Marines with the intent to try him at a court martial for murder.

Sergeant Jermaine Nelson is pending court martial at Camp Pendleton for murder.  He could receive life imprisonment.

Over at Defend the Marines, Nat Helms writes:

...Moments later, after a conversation with Nazario, Carlisle told Fox that he forcibly ushered away LCpl James L Prentice, a squad member eager to kill another prisoner at Nazario’s behest. Nazario says the conversation never happened.

Carlisle said Prentice was angered that LCpl Juan Segura had just died after being shot outside the house moments before they assaulted it. After convincing Prentice not to get involved Weemer, Prentice, and Carlisle left the building, he claimed.

During the two minutes it took to exit the building, Carlisle said he heard three more shots that he presumed to be Nazario finishing off the three combatants in his custody.

Weemer initially revealed the alleged incident during a job interview for a uniformed Secret Service position in Washington, D.C. in 2006, he said. The allegations came to light when Weemer told federal investigators he had witnessed the unlawful killings while serving under Nazario in Iraq.

After his revelations were passed on to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in late 2006, NCIS began a 14-month investigation into the alleged killings.

In Fox’s subsequent affidavit in support of his complaint against Nazario filed last August Fox claimed that Nazario—in the heat of combat—killed two prisoners in retaliation for the death of his friend Lance Cpl. Juan Segura. He believes Nelson and Weemer killed two other prisoners.

Nazario denies the event happened and Weemer initially claimed that he was merely a witness to the incident. When revealing the alleged killings for the first time to a reporter in the spring of 2006, Weemer claimed that his squad had chased eight Iraqis into the building where they later died...

Helms also posted a copy of the charges here.

Although there is no forensic evidence (no bodies, graves, grieving family members, Iraqi witnesses, damage, etc.), the US attorney filed charges against Nazario and ordered Nelson to testify before a secret grand jury.  Sergeant Nelson refused.  The US attorney offered immunity from charges in Federal and military courts.  Nelson refused three times - the last, on his knees in prayer, tears streaming down his face, but resolute, knowing he was going to jail for not complying with the judge's orders. The judge, US District Court Judge Percy Anderson, charged Nelson with contempt.

Sergeant Jermaine Nelson spent Memorial Day weekend in jail in LA.  He is still imprisoned and will appear before Judge Percy Anderson tomorrow. 

Sergeant Nelson's attorney said that one of the reasons that he did not testify against Sergeant Nazario was because Nazario had saved his life several times.

You can Google this case and see the differing stories behind that day on November 9th.  I've struggled with this myself, talked to the attorneys, and come to the conclusion that the ROE, the command climate and other aspects of hand to hand combat in Fallujah will show that these Marines did what they had to do.  I doubt that a civilian kangaroo court will understand that.  But at the end of the day, these men will be free.  These Marines deserve to be free.

I believe that those who disagree will be proven wrong.

Jermaine Nelson said the the Marines were the only ones who ever cared about him.  Let's show the good sergeant that he's wrong about that.  There are a few ways that you can help this Marine:

Sgt Jermaine Nelson's next court date is Thursday 29 May 2008 in Los Angeles.

    MUSTER: 1000 HRS 29 MAY 2008
    312 N. SPRING STREET, LOS ANGELES, CA 90012-4793

Get the word out to the military, reserve, retired, and veteran  communities so that as many as possible can show up in support.

Using the LA Metro to get to the Federal Court house in LA:

    From the San Fernando Valley:
    Parking at either Lankershim or  Universal stations is a problem. You may need to find street parking nearby.  If  possible take the Orange Bus line to the Lankershim station.

    Take the Red Line and get off at The Civic center station. Walk east on Tom Bradley two blocks to Spring st. Turn right (north) on Spring, walk one block to Courthouse. 5-10 minute walk

    From Hollywood:
    one can catch the Redline as well.

    From Long Beach or south LA:
    take the Blue line to 7th st. Metro Center, transfer to the red line for two stops, get off at the Civic center station, follow walking directions above.

    From Pasadena:
    Via the Gold Line, as you exit Union Station to Alameda (there is another exit in back), you will be facing the end of Los Angeles Street, go straight onto it, and it turns left to head south.  Proceed directly across the 101 freeway bridge, to Aliso and Turn right.  One block to Main, turn Left, court entrance is mid-block.

    The Courthouse occupies a full block, bordered by N Main, Aliso, N Spring, and W Temple.  There are entries at both Spring (wheelchair access), and Main (not wheelchair accessible) streets.

If you cannot attend than write or call to signal your support of this decorated combat veteran who is being coerced to turn on a fellow Marine.  Keep it professional and to the point:

    Hon. Percy Anderson
    Courtroom No.: 15
    312 N Spring St
      Los Angeles, CA 90012-4701
    213-894-1795 ( if there is no answer  leave a message)

And you can write the prosecutor:

    ATTN: Jerry Behnke, Assistant United States Attorney
    3880 Lemon Street
    Suite 210
    Riverside, California 92501
    Telephone: (951) 276-6210
    Fax: (951) 276-6202

Also, another way to help is to donate to the Sgt Nelson Defense Fund, set up via PayPal. Sergeant Nelson's attorney is former Marine Joe Low who is representing Nelson Pro Bono (but there are a lot of costs that Mr. Low is assuming - including hiring legal specialists, travel, court costs, etc.)

To donate, follow these instructions:

    1) go to www.paypal.com and login. If you don't have a PayPal account you will need to register
    2) once logged into PayPal, click on Send Money
    3) enter the email address of Sgt Nelson's attorney ([email protected]), the dollar amount you wish to donate and check the Service/Other box, click Send Money at bottom of page.
    4) enter billing info for the credit card
    5) enter Sgt Nelson Defense Fund in the subject line and add a message to Sgt Nelson if you like
    6) make the donation

Also, if anyone knows a habeas corpus specialist in the DC area willing to help, please contact meWe should get Sergeant Nelson out of jail as soon as possible.

One last note.  If you want to send a note to Jermaine Nelson, email me, SUBJECT: NELSON and I'll get it to him.