Marine Corporal Pleads Guilty in Killing of Unarmed Iraqi
Camp Pendeleton, Calif., Jan. 18 (AP) -- A Marine corporal pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and murdering an unarmed Iraqi civilian last year, saying he and other servicemen went after him because they were “sick and tired of getting bombed.”
The marine, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, 25, is the first of seven marines and a Navy medic accused in the case to plead guilty to murder. Four others have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony.
Prosecutors said the eight-man squad had kidnapped 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad, taken him to a roadside hole and shot him to death, placing an AK-47 and shovel by his body to make it look as if he were an insurgent caught planting a bomb.
Corporal Thomas, a native of the St. Louis area on his second tour in Iraq when the man was killed on April 26, testified about the slaying as part of his plea deal. The group planned to go after a known insurgent, he said, but that plan was thwarted and they went to a neighboring house instead. The judge, Lt. Col. Tracy A. Daly, asked why the group had proceeded with the plan.
“We would get someone else to make a statement that marines, we were sick and tired of getting bombed,” Corporal Thomas said.
Corporal Thomas said he and another marine seized Mr. Awad from a house by entering through an unlocked door. He said they used a combination of hand signals and Arabic commands to lure Mr. Awad away. Mr. Awad spoke little English, Corporal Thomas said, but he pleaded with the group of four marines.
“He started asking, ‘Why, mister, why?’ ” Corporal Thomas said. “We didn’t say anything.”
The four took Mr. Awad to the roadside hole, where they rejoined the rest of the squad, Corporal Thomas said. Mr. Awad was struggling to break free, Corporal Thomas said, so he and others bound his hands and feet. Corporal Thomas said Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington tried to force Mr. Awad to lose consciousness by choking him.
The squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, then reported over the radio that the group had spotted a man digging a hole, Corporal Thomas said. Someone fired a shot, he said, then he and others in the squad opened fire. Petty Officer Third Class Melson J. Bacos, he said, shot the AK-47 away from the group to make it appear as though a gunfight had occurred.
After the firing stopped, Corporal Thomas said, Sergeant Hutchins made sure Mr. Awad was dead by shooting a three-round burst of gunfire into his head.
Sergeant Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., is awaiting trial on murder charges and others. Corporal Pennington, of Mukilteo, Wash., is also awaiting trial and claims his rights were violated when investigators interviewed him.
Petty Officer Bacos, of Franklin, Wis., pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to one year in prison. Another marine, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, 23, of Manteca, Calif., has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and others.
Corporal Thomas faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole, though he is likely to receive a more lenient sentence under his plea agreement.
via the New York Times