CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine pleaded guilty on Wednesday to urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters and then posing for photographs, a scene captured in a widely circulated video on the Internet and denounced by world leaders.
Staff Sergeant Edward W. Deptola made the admissions during his court martial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he is assigned to the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment.
Deptola is among a group of Marines to face disciplinary action after the video, posted on YouTube and other websites in January 2012, showed four U.S. servicemen in camouflage combat uniforms urinating on several corpses.
One of them said, “Have a nice day, buddy,” during the footage, and another Marine made a lewd joke.
“I was in a position to stop it, and I did not,” Deptola said during the military hearing on Wednesday.
Military officials said the actions depicted in the video occurred during a counter-insurgency operation in the vicinity of Sandala, Musa Qala District in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in July 2011.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other military leaders denounced the Marines’ behavior, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the video. Officials worried the video would stir up already strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Afghanistan after a decade of a war that had seen past cases of abuse.
As part of a pre-trial agreement, Deptola pleaded guilty to being derelict in his duties by failing to properly supervise junior Marines and wrongfully posing for unofficial photos with human casualties.
He also admitted to urinating on one of the bodies and wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun.
Deptola, who is married and has two children, referred to the pictures as “trophy photographs” and said he knew the Marines’ actions were wrong.
The judge was expected to announce her sentence recommendation later on Wednesday.
A fellow Marine, Staff Sergeant Joseph W. Chamblin, pleaded guilty in December to urinating on a dead Taliban fighter’s body and posing for photos. A military judge ordered 30 days in jail, a fine, forfeited pay and a reduction in rank.
Three other Marines pleaded guilty and were punished last August for their role in the video incident as part of a non-judicial military proceeding, according to the Marine Corps. Their names and specific punishments were not disclosed.
Reporting by Judy Royal; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Andrew Hay and Greg McCcune