Marine described as "key player" in murder of Iraqi; defense says he's honorable

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 7:26 pm
By: News On 6

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) The government on Tuesday described a Marine corporal as a ``key player'' in a plot to kidnap and murder an Iraqi man, while the serviceman's lawyer said his client was an honorable warrior who should be released until his trial.

The contrasting pictures of Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 23, were told at a court-martial hearing where defense lawyers filed several motions, including one to have the Marine freed until trial.

The judge said he would rule on Magincalda's confinement Wednesday. Similar motions by lawyers for the other troops accused in the case have been unsuccessful.

Magincalda has been charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, housebreaking, larceny and making a false official statement. Along with the rest of his squad, six other Marines and a Navy corpsman, he was accused in the kidnapping and killing of an Iraqi man.

The Navy corpsman and two junior Marines have pleaded guilty and testified about the man's death in return for reduced charges and limits on prison terms.

According to their testimony, when the troops were unable to find a known insurgent, they went into a neighboring house and kidnapped Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a 52 year-old former policeman and father of 11.

All the accused troops have been in the brig since May. Joseph Low, an attorney for Magincalda, said his client is not a flight risk and should be released because he needs to be in good mental and physical shape for his trial, scheduled for February.

Low said Magincalda was a combat veteran who had been awarded a Purple Heart. Magincalda was not a flight risk, he said. Military courts have no bail system.

``He demonstrated amazing commitment to honor and integrity,'' Low said.

The government, however, alleges Magincalda was central in the incident and its botched cover-up, and that he bullied Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, the Navy medic on patrol with the Marines, into participating in the plot when Bacos expressed reservations.

``He has been an active participant who has influenced others in terms of criminal conduct,'' prosecutor Capt. Nicholas Gannon said, referring to Magincalda.

Bacos has been sentenced to one year. The two Marines who pleaded guilty will be sentenced next week.