PITTSBURGH A former Marine sued Rep. John Murtha for slander on Thursday, saying the congressman damaged his reputation by saying he and his comrades killed women and children "in cold blood" in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005.
Former Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt filed the federal lawsuit in Pittsburgh. Sharratt says the comments the high-ranking Pennsylvania Democrat made on news shows in May 2006 also violated his constitutional rights to due process and presumption of innocence.
"Sharratt, in being labeled repeatedly by Murtha as a 'cold-blooded murderer,' and by Murtha outrageously claiming that the Haditha incident was comparable to the infamous (My Lai) massacre of Vietnam, has suffered permanent, irreversible damage to his reputation," the lawsuit states.
Military prosecutors have said 2 dozen Iraqis, including women and children, were killed in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, after one Marine died and two others were wounded by a roadside bomb. Murtha, a former Marine and decorated Vietnam War veteran, spoke out about the killings, saying that troops in Iraq were being put under too much pressure.
Sharratt, 24, of the Pittsburgh suburb of Canonsburg, was initially charged with three counts of premeditated murder but was exonerated after a full investigation and a hearing. He was honorably discharged last year.
Sharratt said he has received hate e-mails and been called a "baby killer" when he goes out in Canonsburg.
Murtha's office said the congressman had no comment on the lawsuit.
Sharratt is the second Marine to sue Murtha over his comments about Haditha. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the only person still facing charges in the Haditha case, sued Murtha for defamation in 2006. That lawsuit is pending.
An 18-term congressman, Murtha was hawkish on war issues for decades but has come to believe the U.S. should leave Iraq as soon as possible. He is known for bringing money and jobs, especially in the defense industries, to his district in rural Pennsylvania.
He faces Republican William T. Russell, a career Army member who left the service two years short of retirement, in the November election. Russell has run campaign ads criticizing Murtha for his comments about Haditha.