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Marine pleads guilty in death of Iraqi man

January 19, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A 25-year-old Marine corporal pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and murder charges in the death last year of an unarmed Iraqi man who prosecutors said was dragged from his home and executed as he begged for his life.

Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, 25, was the fifth member of an eight-man squad to admit guilt in the April 26 killing in Hamandiya, an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

Prosecutors say seven Marines and a Navy corpsman plotted to kill a Sunni Arab militant suspected of planting roadside bombs. They did not find their original target and instead chose Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, whom they also suspected of being an insurgent.

Thomas could be sentenced next month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A charge of premeditated murder was withdrawn as part of a pretrial agreement between prosecutors and Thomas' attorneys. Thomas was considered by prosecutors to be a "key player" in the assault, along with three others.

Four other defendants pleaded guilty to reduced charges and have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one year to 21 months.

Thomas also pleaded guilty to conspiracy, making a false official statement, larceny, assault and housebreaking.

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