A teenager accused of carrying out an attack at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in August 2012 that killed three Marines and left one injured was tried as a juvenile on Wednesday and sentenced to 7 1/2 years, the maximum allowed under Afghan law for minors, the Marine Corps confirmed Friday.
The sentence came as a surprise to the families of the victims, who said they had been promised by Marine officials that the suspect would be tried as an adult, with the possibility of the death penalty.
Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29, Cpl. Richard Rivera, 20, and Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr., 21, were killed while working out in the gym of the base in Helmand province. Ainuddin Khudairaham, then 17, who worked for the local Afghan police chief, was accused of stealing a Kalashnikov assault rifle and opening fire on the unarmed Marines.
Michael Bowe, a lawyer assisting Buckley's family, said the relatives were not told about the trial date until Thursday.
"Yesterday, we received reports that, in fact, the murderer already had been tried and sentenced as a juvenile," Bowe said in a letter Friday to a Marine lawyer involved in the case, Maj. Jennifer Parker. "Neither you nor the Marine Corps notified the Buckley family of this development, and they were left instead to scramble to confirm rumors communicated to them from the press and other sources."
The letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post, alleges that the Buckley family was "misled, abandoned and betrayed" by the Marine Corps because Marine officials did not share the trial date ahead of time, even though they were aware of it on Monday.
Parker did not return a request for comment. Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, defended the Marine Corps in a statement Friday. He said a staff judge advocate with the Marine unit in Afghanistan notified the families by email on Sunday that the shooter would be tried as a juvenile. On Monday, the lawyer learned that the trial would begin the next day but failed to convey that information to the families by email, Gibson said.