Before sentencing, Marine says he never intended to kill Iraqi civilians
NEW: Iraqi officials are angry over court-martial's plea deal
NEW: "Iraqi blood isn't so cheap," one Iraqi lawmaker says
NEW: U.S. military law expert says a public explanation of plea deal is needed
NEW: Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich says he's not a "monster" or "cold-blooded baby killer"
Camp Pendleton, California (CNN) -- Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, the Marine facing a court-martial who has pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty in the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqis, told surviving families Tuesday that "it was never my intention (to) harm you."
Further, in a statement that he was going to read in court before his sentencing Tuesday, Wuterich said: "I never fired my weapon at any women or children that day" in 2005.
"When I told my team to shoot first and ask questions later, the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy," his statement said, made available to reporters beforehand.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials condemned Wuterich's plea deal, and one U.S. military law expert said a public explanation by the court-martial or attorneys is needed.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled Tuesday for Wuterich -- the last of eight Marines charged in the shooting deaths in Haditha of 24 Iraqis, signaling the end of a handful of alleged war crimes cases that came to light during the height of the war in Iraq.
He pleaded guilty Monday to one count of negligent dereliction of duty, a charge that brings a maximum punishment of confinement of three months, two-thirds forfeiture of pay for three months and reduction in rank to private, authorities said.
"Words cannot express my sorrow for the loss of your loved ones," Wuterich said to the families in his statement.
"For six years, I have had to accept that my name will always be associated with a massacre, being a cold-blooded baby killer, an 'out of control' monster, and a conspiring liar," Wuterich wrote. "There's nothing I can do about whoever believes these things."
Wuterich said he was "absolutely devastated" when his commanders were relieved of duty "because of my words or actions."
Wuterich, the father of three girls, said he's been unable to advance his military career or pursue "a secure life for my family outside of the military."
"Many of the Marines who were there that day, along with everyone who has stood by me and supported me, may be disappointed that I pled guilty. It might suggest that I believe we behaved badly or dishonorably. The truth is, I don't believe anyone in my squad, nor any member of of Kilo Co, 3/1/ behaved in any way that was dishonorable or contrary to the highest ideals that we all live by as Marines," Wuterich said.
"Regardless of the outcome, I am here to take responsibility for my actions, and to accept the consequences," Wuterich wrote.
Charges were dropped against six of the other Marines charged in the case, and one was acquitted.
Wuterich, 31, of Meriden, Connecticut, faced nine counts of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of dereliction of duty in the November 19, 2005, killings, charges he has vehemently denied. Under the plea agreement, the other charges are being dropped, according Marine Master Sgt. Chad McMeen.
Wuterich's plea came nearly two weeks into his court-martial at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.
The killings enraged Iraqis, put a spotlight on the conduct of the U.S. military and saw a congressman compare it to Vietnam's My Lai massacre.
The fallout from the incidents continued more than six years later, with reports that Iraqi-U.S. negotiations to extend a withdrawal deadline broke down over Iraq's refusal to grant American troops immunity from prosecution in Iraq.
On Tuesday, Iraqi officials excoriated the plea deal in the court-martial.
Khalid Salman, head of Haditha local council, told CNN that "we have been following this case since 2006 and we were hoping that those soldiers, who killed 24 innocent people, will receive fair punishment.
"But now we are convinced that the judicial system in America is unjust," Salman said. "This is not the end and we will continue pursuing those soldiers legally through the international courts."
Taleb al-Essawi, the political adviser to the governor of the Anbar province, told CNN that the local government is very disappointed with the court-martial decision.
"Big disappointment," al-Essawi said. "I can't believe that the court decided to drop all the charges except one charge, which is negligent dereliction of duty. This is a joke, because according to the Iraqi law, all those soldiers should be executed." al-Essawi said.
"We demand from the American administration to reconsider the court decision," al-Essawi told CNN. The U.S. government should compensate the families of the victims, he added.
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the Marines "committed mass killings in Haditha" and the plea arrangement was "unjust."
"We ask the human rights organizations and (nongovernmental organizations) in America and all over the world to strongly condemn this verdict. Iraqi blood isn't so cheap," Othman said in his Facebook posting.
A U.S. military law expert said a public explanation was needed.
"The trial counsel and convening authority has a duty to explain this pretrial agreement in order to safeguard public confidence in the administration of justice," said Eugene R. Fidell, senior research scholar and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School.
According to previous testimony and court records, Wuterich, who was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, was the squad leader on November 19, 2005, when his patrol hit a roadside bomb that killed one Marine and wounded another. The Marines also were shot at.
Wuterich is accused of ordering his men to storm three homes, part of what his attorney has said was a search for those believed responsible for planting the bomb and later shooting at the men. During that raid, 24 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed. The prosecution contends the men were out for revenge.
The case didn't come to light until January 2006 when Time magazine broke the story. Two months later, the military launched an investigation, a step CNN first reported.
The incident earned the condemnation of Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, who compared it to the 1968 massacre at My Lai, and President George W. Bush vowed then that if an investigation found Marines killed unarmed civilians, "there will be a punishment."
The case has been delayed a number of times, most notably over a government subpoena for outtakes of a 2008 interview Wuterich gave to CBS' "60 Minutes."
After the trial judge hands down a sentence, a final adjudication will be made by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel said.
He "can reduce a sentence but cannot increase it," Kloppel said.
CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report. Stan Wilson reported from Camp Pendleton and Michael Martinez from Los Angeles.