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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

3 More Marines to Be Tried in Iraqi's Death

October 19, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — Three more Marines were ordered Wednesday to stand trial on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the April shooting death of an Iraqi man.

But Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis Jr., commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, dropped a charge against the three that could have resulted in the death penalty.

Mattis ordered Lance Cpls. Tyler Jackson and Robert Pennington and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas to stand trial. He previously had ordered courts-martial for Pfc. John Jodka, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda and Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Jr., also after dropping the death penalty charge. The trials probably will not begin until February.

Also Wednesday, the Army said eight soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division would be tried for allegedly killing Iraqis: four for the alleged rape of a teenage girl in Mahmoudiya and the alleged slaying of her and her family; and four for allegedly killing three detainees near Tikrit. In the Mahmoudiya case, two of the soldiers could face the death penalty.

In the Marine case, Mattis is still considering evidence against Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, the alleged ringleader in the plot to kill an unarmed Iraqi and then use phony evidence to make it look like he had been planting a roadside bomb.

An eighth defendant, Navy corpsman Melson Bacos, had pleaded guilty to lesser charges and promised to testify in the case. Bacos was sentenced to a year in the brig.

The Marines and Bacos are charged with dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, whom they suspected of being an insurgent, from his home in Hamandiya, tying his hands and feet, stuffing a rag in his mouth and then executing him.

An investigation was launched after Awad's family protested that the killing was unprovoked and denied he was an insurgent.

The defendants, all members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, have been in the brig since being ordered back from Iraq in May. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Defense attorneys this week challenged Bacos' credibility, given his plea bargain and light sentence.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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