3rd service member to plead guilty in investigation of death of Iraqi civilian

Monday, October 30th 2006, 10:11 pm
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) Another Marine charged with kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi man has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges, his attorney said Monday.

Thomas Watt, attorney for Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, declined to discuss details of the agreement but confirmed that a deal has been reached and that his client is due in court next week to plead guilty to some charges.

Jackson, 23, of Tracy, is charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, housebreaking and larceny. He is the third service member to have made a plea deal in the case, in which seven Camp Pendleton based Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murdering 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad.

Last week, another Marine who faced charges similar to Jackson's, Pfc. John Jodka III, pleaded guilty to assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The first to make a deal was Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, the Navy corpsman on patrol with the Marines. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy.

A Marine Corps spokeswoman, Capt. Amy Malugani, declined to comment on Jackson's case.

At their courts-martial, Jodka and Bacos testified about the death. In return, prosecutors dropped murder and other charges against them. Bacos was sentenced to one year in prison; Jodka's sentencing is set for November 15th.

Bacos said the squad entered the Iraqi town of 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 Awad to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 with him to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a bomb, Bacos said. Jodka said he and other Marines shot at Awad.

Both Jodka and Bacos singled out their squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins, as hatching a plan to kidnap an insurgent. Hutchins' attorney, Rich Brannon, has said he did not believe Hutchins did anything wrong.

Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge advocate who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University Law Center, said he was surprised the prosecution struck another deal.

``If you are a prosecutor, then prosecute,'' Solis said. ``One has to ask, if the prosecution is so unsure of itself, if it needs to have multiple layers of witness testimony, it must be a much weaker case than it appears.''