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RANGELY (AP) — A military judge has dismissed charges against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.
Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges Tuesday against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after defense attorneys raised concerns that a four-star general overseeing the prosecution was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled, but Folsom excluded Marine Forces Central Command from future involvement.
Chessani, of Rangely, was the highest-ranking officer implicated in the case.
Chessani is one of three Marines to face charges stemming from the Nov. 19, 2005, shootings in Haditha, Iraq, following a roadside bomb that killed one Marine and injured two others.
The ruling comes two weeks after Marine Gen. James Mattis took the stand — a rare courtroom appearance for such a high-ranking officer — to address Folsom’s initial finding that there was evidence of unlawful command influence in the case.
Authorities originally charged eight Marines — four with counts related to the killings and four in connection with the investigation. Charges against all but three were dropped.