Haditha Witness Accused of Rape, Theft

The Associated Press
Friday, February 2, 2007; 6:44 PM

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A Marine who has spoken publicly about a massacre allegedly committed by his unit in Iraq has been charged with rape, stealing government property and trying to mail guns from Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, 22, was charged by the military last week. He is accused of raping a nonmilitary person in the Camp Pendleton area last year and of stealing optical equipment worth about $3,820 in Iraq.

Briones' family said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after following orders to photograph and help remove the bodies of 24 Iraqi men, women and children who were slain in November 2005 in Haditha.

He has said he did not witness the killings, which occurred after a fellow Marine and friend of his was killed.

Briones is also charged with wrongfully trying to mail two guns from Iraq.

He pleaded guilty last year in civilian court to stealing a truck and crashing it into a house in his hometown of Hanford, Calif. He could get up to three years in prison for the theft when he is sentenced March 2.

The Marine's father, Roel Briones, told The Fresno Bee he believes his son is being treated unfairly by the military for speaking out.

Camp Pendleton spokesman 1st Lt. Esteban T. Vickers said the charges and the Haditha incident are unrelated.

Four other enlisted Camp Pendleton Marines have been charged with unpremeditated murder, and four officers are charged with failing to properly report the Haditha killings, the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the Iraq war.

The Marines' lawyers have said the troops were responding with legitimate force after a roadside bomb killed one of their squad.


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