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Marine not guilty of most serious charge

August 02, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine corporal was found guilty Wednesday of house-breaking and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing last year of an unarmed Iraqi man in Hamandiya but was declared not guilty of premeditated murder, a charge that would have meant a mandatory life sentence without parole.

The military jury that convicted Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, of Manteca, Calif., will meet today to decide his penalty.

Although the jury still could sentence him to life in prison, the convictions carry no minimum sentence.

Magincalda's attorney, Joseph Low, called the verdict "a blessing." Magincalda was on his third tour of duty in Iraq. All six jurors were combat veterans of Iraq.

"Only a combat vet can understand a combat vet," said Low, a former Marine. "It's an experience you have to go through; you can't be told about it."

Also Wednesday, a separate jury deliberated for six hours without deciding the fate of Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, of Plymouth, Mass, in the same case. The jury will resume its deliberations today.

Hutchins is alleged to have led a plot to kidnap and execute an Iraqi man as a warning to insurgents to stop attacking Marines in the area around Hamandiya, west of Baghdad. Testimony by Marines during his court-martial indicated Magincalda was a reluctant participant in the scheme.

Two weeks ago, in the same case, another jury of combat veterans found Cpl. Trent D. Thomas guilty of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder but not guilty of premeditated murder. The jury ordered that Thomas be given a bad-conduct discharge but no jail time beyond the 14 months he spent in the brig awaiting trial.

Four Marines and a Navy corpsman have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in connection with the April 25, 2006, shooting and subsequent coverup attempt.

They received sentences of 10 months to eight years under plea bargains approved by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of Marine Forces Central Command.

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