CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A Marine pleaded guilty yesterday to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan and is likely be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a harsher sentence.
Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, a Long Island native, pleaded guilty to multiple charges at court-martial, including dereliction of duty for desecrating remains, posing for photos with the corpses and failing to properly supervise junior Marines.
The judge, Lt. Col Nicole Hudspeth, would have sentenced him to six months confinement, a $5,000 fine, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge. But she is bound by terms of the plea agreement the sergeant reached with military prosecutors. A general will review the sentence and could lower it.
Deptola and another Marine based at Camp Lejeune were charged last year after a video surfaced showing four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in July 2011. In the video, one of the Marines looked down at the bodies and said, "Have a good day, buddy." Deptola was sergeant for a scout sniper platoon.
Though he had been previously deployed overseas, Deptola was on his only combat deployment at the time. The native of Southold is married, with two children. Military officials declined to give his age.
"I was in a position to stop it and I did not . . . I should have spoken up on the spot," the sergeant said.
When asked by the judge why he did it, Deptola said "I have no excuse, no reason . . . it was not the correct way to handle a human casualty."
He described that day, saying the platoon had seen heavy action and had 11 confirmed kills.
Deptola's attorney, Maj. Tracey Holtshirley, called the case a "lynching" by the media and public for an isolated mistake by a well-regarded Marine.
Other Marines involved have received lesser sentences.