Fund set up to help legal defense for Southold Marine facing court-martial

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola at a welcome home party at McDonald’s in Mattituck last October.

A defense fund was created to help two U.S. Marines, one of whom is from Southold, who are being court-martialed for allegedly urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in late July 2011, and posing for pictures with the bodies.

The 3/2 Scout Sniper Defense Fund has started a Facebook site with a link to a PayPal account where contributions can be made, according to Laura Pace of Mattituck. Her brother, Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola of Southold, 27, faces charges along with another Marine, Staff. Sgt. Joseph Chambin, for the urinating incident, which was captured in a video that appeared on YouTube in January.

Ms. Pace said other Marines started the site, which just went up this week.

“I think that a court martial is extreme,” Ms. Pace said. “Facing jail time is a little extreme. I can’t say if he did it or didn’t, but he’s innocent until proven guilty. As a civilian, I don’t want to know what’s going on over there. All I know is I sleep better at night knowing that the service men and women are over there defending us.”

The Facebook site says it’s dedicated to help the 3/2 Scout Snipers with legal fees and the possible loss of their careers.

“What most people don’t know is the story behind the five U.S. Marines currently involved in the legal investigation,” the Facebook site says. “Since February these Marines with their families by their sides have been engaged in a extremely stressful legal battle incurring over $30,000.00 of legal bills between them and the tab is still running.”

The site claims that money raised will go to legal costs for the soldiers, and that when they reach their goal, they will stop collecting money and the account will be closed.

The Department of Defense brought the court-martial action against Staff Sergeants Deptola and Chamblin on Sept. 21, and announced it in a Sept 24 press release.

The two Marines also were charged for other misconduct that allegedly took place during the same operation, including being derelict in their duties by failing to properly supervise junior Marines, failing to require junior Marines to wear their personal protective equipment, failing to stop and report the misconduct of junior Marines, failing to report the negligent discharge of a grenade launcher, and failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons, the Department of Defense stated.

Staff Sgt. Deptola also is charged with failing to stop the unnecessary damaging of Afghan compounds and wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun.

The other three Marines, who were not identified, received nonjudicial punishment for misconduct that came to light during several investigations into the urinating incident, and disciplinary actions against them will be announced at a later date, officials said.

According to the Facebook site, the five Marines facing charges “have a combined total of 15 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, going as far back as 2003, multiple Navy Commendation medals with Combat “V” for Valor, and 3 Purple Hearts.”

One of them was wounded in 2010 when he was hit by a home-made claymore mine, and another is now an amputee after in improvised explosive device (IED) he was disarming detonated, causing him to lose his left leg.

“These funds will go to help pay legal fees as they fight for their VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] benefits to include medical coverage for those that were wounded in combat, VA disability for the more critically wounded, educational benefits such as the GI Bill, and other VA benefits,” the site states.

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