SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Marine lieutenant accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 civilians in Iraq was discharged from active duty, meaning he can't be prosecuted under military law, his attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The Marines insisted he remains on active duty.
First Lt. Andrew Grayson left active duty June 1 but must remain a reservist until 2011, according to signed discharge papers from Camp Lejeune, N.C., provided to the AP by attorney Joseph Casas. Grayson might not attend his preliminary hearing next week, Casas said.
``My position right now is that the Marine Corps does not have jurisdiction over Andrew Grayson,'' Casas said. ``As of today, he is not going to show up.''
The Marine Corps said Grayson is still on active duty.
``I can assure you he is still on active duty and he will be present next week,'' said Marine spokesman, Lt. Col. Sean Gibson. ``I don't know what the circumstances were that led to him having the (papers).''
Casas advised his client not to attend next Monday's preliminary hearing at Camp Pendleton, at which an officer will recommend whether he should stand trial.
A squad of enlisted Marines killed two dozen men, women and children Nov. 19, 2005 after a bomb struck a convoy in the Iraqi town of Haditha.
Grayson, 26, of Springboro, Ohio, is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the killings, making a false official statement and obstructing justice. Three enlisted Marines are charged with murder, and four officers are accused of failing to investigate the killings.
Casas said service members facing prosecution who are due to leave the military are typically placed on legal hold, which keep them on active duty. This never happened in Grayson's case, and his discharge may have been an oversight, Casas said.
``I just don't know why the Marine Corps didn't place him on legal hold,'' Casas said. ``It is what it is. They discharged him. If they want to say it was an administrative error they can say that until they are blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is, he was discharged.''
Kevin McDermott, an attorney for another officer accused in the case, Capt. Lucas McConnell, said the Marine Corps could still prosecute Grayson by changing his status back to active duty.
``There's no doubt in my mind that if the powers that be want to reactivate him, that can certainly be accomplished,'' McDermott said.