Friday, July 20, 2007

Dedicated Marine Will Not Go To Jail.




Cpl. Trent Thomas will not be sent to prison for his role in killing an Iraqi civilian.
A military jury convicted him of conspiracy to committ murder for his role in the April 2006 killing of a retired Iraqi policeman in the village of Hamdania,
but they decided not to send him to prison.
He was sentenced to a BCD, a bad-conduct discharge, and a reduction to the lowest pay grade. He could have received life in prison.
Thomas had been in pre-trial confinement in the brig since May 2006.
Thomas, of Madison, Ill., was one of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused in connection with the killing.
"I believe we did what we needed to do to save Marines' lives," Thomas said outside court, while declining to discuss the details of what happened that night. "I think anybody who understands what war is or what combat is understands."
A military jury of three officers and six enlisted Marines deliberated Thomas' sentence for less than an hour before returning its decision.
On 18 July, the jury convicted Thomas, 25, of kidnapping and conspiracy but acquitted him of other charges, including the most serious, premeditated murder.
Prosecutors had recommended Thomas be sentenced to 15 years in prison with a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and a fine.
Thomas' attorneys argued that their client was only following orders from his squad leader and asked that he be credited for the 519 days he has already served in the brig and be returned to active duty.
"We failed him as a Marine Corps, because under good leadership, this Marine would not be here today," Maj. Haytham Faraj told the court. "Consider where the responsibility lies."
Thomas had agreed in January to plead guilty in the case, but withdrew the guilty pleas on the eve of sentencing in February. His attorney, Victor Kelley, said that pretrial agreement had called for 12 years in prison.
"I was going to take a deal for 12 years because my lawyer said it was in my best interest, but then my lawyers called me back and said, 'We're going to fight this,'" Thomas said Friday. "That was all I needed."
On Thursday, 19 July, Thomas told the court he wanted to continue serving.
"I've never been good at anything until I came to the Marine Corps," said Thomas, who served three combat tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart for the 2004 siege on Fallujah. "It's pretty obvious Michael Jordan was meant to play basketball. Tiger Woods was meant to play golf. The Marine Corps, it's me."
The final terms of Thomas' punishment are subject to review by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case, but he can only reduce the sentence.
Four other Marines and the sailor charged pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for testimony. A court-martial began Friday, 20 July, in a Camp Pendleton courtroom for Thomas' squadmate Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda. Proceedings are scheduled to begin next week in the case of squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III. Both are charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other offenses.
Tom Umberg, a former military prosecutor, called Thomas' punishment "pretty outrageous" and suggested the jurors might have been swayed by their own combat experiences.
"I have never heard of a court-martial that convicted someone of conspiracy to murder and kidnapping and not adjudicate some kind of (prison) sentence," Umberg said. "Obviously there was some sympathy, maybe even empathy, because all of the panel members had served in Iraq."

8 comments:

knicksgrl0917 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter A. Stinson said...

The jury all served in Iraq?

Cpl. Trent Thomas served three combat tours in Iraq?

Perhaps that's why it's called a jury of his peers...

ichbinalj said...

Peter,
As always, your BREVITY is the heighth of Eloquence.
Indeed, he was tried by a jury of his peers, unlike Cadet Webster Smith. Cpl Thomas was given the BEST jury that the USMC could find, as the UCMJ requires.
If present trends continue, it will be impossible to find a Marine who has not served in Iraq, and some with multiple back-to-back involuntarily extended tours. And if ever that day arrives, what shall we do to find a jury that will not get some flak from some impartial critic? Will we have to look to the Coast Guard, or the Peace Corps for potential jury members?
Clearly the law now affects operational combat decision-making more than ever before.
It sometimes seems as if current debates over warfare anticipate that no civilian casualties will occur in wartime. Such expectations are unrealistic and endanger the pursuit of legitimate military objectives for the U.S. now and in the future.
Although minimizing civilian deaths is something that all civilized nations strive to achieve, and the U.S. military is taking enormous strides to implement such principles, military forces in combat have the primary mission of achieving victory.
U.S. forces continue to consistently adhere to the law/policy of measuring the military advantage of certain actions against the impact on the civilian populace. This law/policy has been incorporated into the ethos of the American warrior. However, making such determinations regarding al-Qaida is terribly complex and now often subject to 20/20 hindsight by those who disagree with the policies of the civilian leadership.
The hearings on Haditha highlight how the law has come to affect military operations. Currently, the United States (and the West) is trying to figure out the proper level of attention required for each. A proper balance between these two entities, law and war, will be the key to our ability to wage wars in the future.
Glenn Sulmasy teaches international law at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The views here are his own and not those of the academy or other branches of the U.S. government.

ichbinalj said...

A USMC court-martial jury at California's Camp Pendleton found Cpl. Marshall Magincalda guilty on 1 Aug of larceny and housebreaking and sentenced him to 448 days in jail. Because he has been held in pre-trial confinement for 450 days, the sentence is not onerous. He is not being punished further. He was convicted of participating in a conspiracy to murder, kidnap, commit larceny and obstruction of justice, make a false official statement and break into a house.

Six others have been convicted in the Hamdania, Iraq case, one in a series in which US troops have been accused of abuse or killings of Iraqi civilians. The others in the case have received sentences of between no additional time in prison and eight years behind bars.

ichbinalj said...

Another Court-martial at Camp Pendleton near San Diego on 3 Aug is considering the sentence of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III who was found guilty of unpremeditated murder, larceny and other crimes yesterday.

The prosecution had sought to convict Hutchins of premeditated murder.
Witnesses testified that Hutchins congratulated his squad after the crime, saying "We just got away with murder". One said the men had been inspired by the 1999 movie "The Boondock Saints," in which vigilantes in Boston kill mobsters.

It appears that Hutchins and another Marine shot Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four, and then the unit set a AK-47 assault rifle and shovel next to the corpse to suggest he had been an insurgent planting a bomb.

ichbinalj said...

Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III was sentenced to 15 years in prison on 3 Aug 2007 for the murder of an Iraqi civilian .

On @ Aug Hutchins became the first and only member of the eight-person squad to be convicted of murder in the killing. He had been charged with premeditated murder but premeditation was stricken from the verdict, meaning Hutchins no longer faced a mandatory life sentence.

Hutchins was also dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank to private and verbally reprimanded. His wife burst into tears as the verdict was read.

Testimony from several of his comrades pointed to Hutchins as the mastermind of the plot to kidnap and kill the civilian, who was initially identified by prosecutors as Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52.

ichbinalj said...

Friday 24 Aug 2007 Navy Times Staff Writer Gidget Fuentes writes:
An investigating officer is recommending that all charges, including murder, be dropped against an infantryman accused in the shooting deaths of at least 18 civilians in Hadithah, a 2005 incident he referred to as a tragedy. He believes there’s “insufficient evidence” for the case to go to trial.

In a 31-page report, Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware argued that “there is insufficient evidence” and recommended dismissal of all charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum.
Tatum is one of several Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the Marine Corps initially charged in the deaths of up to 24 people after a roadside bomb exploded Nov. 19, 2005, striking a vehicle convoy on a logistics mission and killing a member of Tatum’s squad. Tatum and others reported hearing gunfire, and the platoon commander who arrived on the scene ordered the squad leader, now-Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, to clear a house from where the gunfire came, according to the report and previous testimonies.
Tatum, during his Article 32 hearing, told the court in an unsworn statement that he hadn’t realized that there were women and children in the rooms at the time that he was firing his weapon.
Tatum and three other squad members, including his Wuterich, the squad leader, were charged with murder and other charges, and four battalion officers were charged for failing to fully investigated allegations of war crimes in the villagers’ deaths. Several other Marines received immunity in exchange for testifying or helping in the investigation.
The Article 32 hearing for Wuterich is tentatively scheduled to begin in late August.
Ware recently recommended the dismissal of all charges against one of Tatum’s squad mates, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt. Mattis concurred with that investigating officer’s report by Ware.

ichbinalj said...

Friday 24 Aug 2007 Navy Times Staff Writer Gidget Fuentes writes:
An investigating officer is recommending that all charges, including murder, be dropped against an infantryman accused in the shooting deaths of at least 18 civilians in Hadithah, a 2005 incident he referred to as a tragedy. He believes there’s “insufficient evidence” for the case to go to trial.

In a 31-page report, Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware argued that “there is insufficient evidence” and recommended dismissal of all charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum.
Tatum is one of several Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the Marine Corps initially charged in the deaths of up to 24 people after a roadside bomb exploded Nov. 19, 2005, striking a vehicle convoy on a logistics mission and killing a member of Tatum’s squad. Tatum and others reported hearing gunfire, and the platoon commander who arrived on the scene ordered the squad leader, now-Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, to clear a house from where the gunfire came, according to the report and previous testimonies.
Tatum, during his Article 32 hearing, told the court in an unsworn statement that he hadn’t realized that there were women and children in the rooms at the time that he was firing his weapon.
Tatum and three other squad members, including his Wuterich, the squad leader, were charged with murder and other charges, and four battalion officers were charged for failing to fully investigated allegations of war crimes in the villagers’ deaths. Several other Marines received immunity in exchange for testifying or helping in the investigation.
The Article 32 hearing for Wuterich is tentatively scheduled to begin in late August.
Ware recently recommended the dismissal of all charges against one of Tatum’s squad mates, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt. Mattis concurred with that investigating officer’s report by Ware.