SAN DIEGO – Three Camp Pendleton Marines will face courts-martial on murder and kidnapping charges in the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania, but will not face the death penalty, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.
The three were among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and killing 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April.
Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general in the case, has not announced a decision on whether the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, will go to trial and what charges he will face. Three other Marines also have been referred to courts-martial.
On. Oct. 6, Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, a Navy corpsman on patrol with the Marines, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors. He agreed to testify at his court-martial and during upcoming proceedings about what he witnessed.
Bacos said that the squad entered Hamdania on April 26 while searching for a known insurgent who had been captured three times, then released. The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed Awad.
Bacos said the squad took him to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a bomb. Bacos was sent to 12 months confinement; murder and other charges against him were dropped.
Attorneys for the Marines said they would like to get them out of confinement. Thomas' attorney, Vic Kelley, said he intended to file a motion to get his client out of the brig, where he has been held since May. Under military law, the accused has no right to bail.
Pennington's attorney David Brahms said he too wanted to get his client out of confinement. Jackson's civilian attorney, Thomas Watt, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Marines Corps dropped some charges against Jackson, Pennington and Thomas, including an assault charge and a charge of wrongfully endeavoring to impede an investigation. Thomas will face an additional assault charge related to a separate incident uncovered during the probe into Awad's death.
Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, at least 14 members of the U.S. military have been convicted in connection with the deaths of Iraqis. Two received sentences of up to life in prison, while most others were given little or no jail time.