2 Marines plead not guilty to murder, kidnapping in Iraqi civilian's death; gag order issued

Wednesday, October 4th 2006, 9:42 pm
By: News On 6

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) -- Two Marines accused of kidnapping and murdering a civilian man in rural Iraq entered not guilty pleas in a military court Wednesday, and a judge barred lawyers from discussing the case with the media.

Pfc. John J. Jodka III and Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda are among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and murdering 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April. Both face up to life in prison if convicted.

Jodka, 20, and Magincalda, 23, appeared in short-sleeved khaki uniforms decorated with medal ribbons, and both said little. They are accused of kidnapping, murder and other charges.

Judge Col. Steven Folsom said he was concerned about potential jurors hearing information about the case, but said the gag orders would be reviewed in coming months. The orders do not cover the other six troops accused in the case.

Marine prosecutor Lt. Col. John Baker said he was concerned the order would make it too hard for the public to get information on the case.

"The process seems to be overly mechanical, is not flexible and will delay information getting out," Baker said.

According to prosecutors, some of the troops kidnapped Awad on April 26, bound his feet, dragged him from his home and shot him in a roadside hole.

Charging documents say the group went looking for a known terrorist. When they couldn't find one, the documents say, they entered Awad's home and took him against his will.

Jodka is accused of firing an automatic weapon at Awad, along with four other troops alleged to have opened fire.

Some of the troops, including Magincalda, are accused of stealing an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel and placing them in the hole with Awad's body, apparently to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb. The Navy corpsman is accused of firing the AK-47 in the air and Magincalda of placing the expended shell casings by Awad's body.

Jodka's trial date was set for March 5 and Magincalda's for Feb. 1.

The commanding general in the case last week ruled that the two and a third Marine, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate, should not face the death penalty. Decisions on whether the other five troops should stand trial will come after their preliminary hearings. Another arraignment is expected next week and preliminary hearings for the others are expected in coming weeks.