A Marine who was prosecuted for a 2011 video that depicted he and other Marines urinating on corpses of Taliban members was found dead on Wednesday. His death did not appear to be a suicide, his lawyer told Marine Corps Times.
Retired Cpl. Robert Richards, 28, died at his home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, according to Guy Womack, Richards’ attorney. Richards was deployed to Afghanistan three times. He was badly wounded in one of those tours, as an improvised explosive device injured his legs and throat.
In July 2011, Richards and members of his scout sniper platoon team filmed themselves urinating on the dead bodies of who they believed to be Taliban members responsible for the gruesome death of a fellow Marine. In 2012, the video was anonymously posted on YouTube, leading to outrage across the globe.
Richards faced a court martial, and reached a plea deal in 2013.
But his case was overshadowed by allegations that a Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, had manipulated the military justice system to secure harsh punishments against Richards and others. A Pentagon investigation cleared Amos this month.
Richards, who, like many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was known to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, later attributed the episode to strain of combat and to the loss of another Marine.
“When you’re under that much stress and in that environment, your whole mental being changes," he told the Marine Corps Times last year. "You’re no longer Joe the Family Man."
Officials with the Marine Corps offered a statement on Richards’ passing.
“We are aware of reports regarding the tragic passing of retired Marine Cpl. Robert W. Richards,” said Maj. John Caldwell, a Marine Corps spokesman. “We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
“He was a good guy, and would do anything for his friends,” said Joseph Chamblin, who appointed Richards to be the sniper platoon’s team leader in 2011.