A Marine sniper shown urinating on Taliban corpses in a video circulated on the Internet has been reduced in rank after pleading guilty to dereliction of duty and other charges.
Sgt. Robert W. Richards was reduced to corporal for his role in the incident, in which four Marines in full combat gear were shown urinating on the bodies of three insurgents in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in July 2011.
Richards pleaded guilty at a court-martial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Wednesday, according to a Marine Corps spokesman, Col. Sean Gibson. Richards avoided a bad-conduct discharge that would have cost him most of his medical retirement benefits.
The 39-second video triggered international outrage when it was posted online in January 2012. One Marine could be heard saying to one of the bodies, "Have a good day, buddy."
The Marine Corps said the incident took place during a counter-insurgency operation in Helmand province. Richards, of Seminole, Fla., was accused of recording himself and the other Marines.
He pleaded guilty to conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, including the indiscriminate firing of weapons, failure to properly supervise Marines and failure to report misconduct, Gibson said.
The video was the first of several incidents involving U.S. troops in Afghanistan that triggered outrage in Afghanistan last year. Violent protests erupted, and U.S. commanders expressed fear that the incidents would turn ordinary Afghans against the U.S. mission and serve as recruiting tools for the Taliban.
Richards' court-martial resolves all cases of the Marines shown in the video. Eight Marines have been court-martialed or received nonjudicial punishment for their roles in the incident, Gibson said.
One Marine testified that a sergeant in the Marines' platoon had been killed earlier in the day by a roadside bomb, and the Marines believed the dead insurgents had been responsible.
Richards, a veteran of three combat deployments, was wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010.