Watch CBSN Live

8 Servicemen Charged With Murder

Seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged Wednesday with premeditated murder in the shooting death of an Iraqi man who was pulled from his home and shot while U.S. troops hunted for insurgents. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

All eight also were charged with kidnapping. Other charges include conspiracy, larceny and providing false official statements.

Col. Stewart Navarre, chief of staff for Marine Corps Installations West, announced the charges at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, where the eight are being held. The troops are members of the Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that some of the Marines are expected to be allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges in return for their testimony against the men investigators believe were the ring leaders of the plot.

The case is separate from the alleged killing by other Marines of 24 Iraqi civilians in the western Iraqi city of Haditha last November. A pair of investigations related to that case are still under way, and no criminal charges have been filed.

Some or all of the troops being held at Camp Pendleton could face the death penalty, though Navarre said "it's far too early to speculate on that right now."

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the senior commander at Pendleton, will decide whether and how to proceed with preliminary hearings known in the military justice system as Article 32 proceedings. That in turn could lead to courts-martial for some or all of the men.

All eight have hired private attorneys and also have been given military defense lawyers.

The Pentagon began investigating shortly after an Iraqi man identified as Hashim Ibrahim Awad was killed April 26 in Hamdania, west of Baghdad.

A charging document provided to The Associated Press by Jane Siegel, an attorney for Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka, alleges that the Iraqi was shot by five of the Marines and that an AK-47 assault rifle were placed in the victim's hands, apparently to make it appear he was an insurgent.

A senior Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, has said a shovel was also planted on the body to make it appear the man was trying to plant an explosive device.

Besides Jodka, charged were Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Marine Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, and Marine Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda.

In other recent developments:

  • Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants went on an indefinite hunger strike Wednesday to protest the killing of an Iraqi attorney who sits on the defense team, the chief lawyer of the ousted Iraqi leader said. Khamis al-Obeidi, one of Saddam's main lawyers, was shot to death Wednesday after he was abducted from his Baghdad home by men wearing police uniforms. His was the third killing of a member of the former leader's defense team since the trial started some eight months ago.
  • Relatives of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Oregon, are awaiting the results of DNA tests to definitively determine whether the bodies found in Iraq Monday are those of the missing soldiers. Menchaca and Tucker disappeared Friday during an attack on a checkpoint south of Baghdad, in which another GI was killed. Iraqi officials said Tuesday the Americans were first tortured and then killed in a "barbaric" way. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for killing the U.S. soldiers, and said al-Zarqawi's successor had "slaughtered" them, according to a Web statement that could not be authenticated. The language in the statement suggested the men were beheaded.
  • An al Qaeda-led insurgent group said in a Web statement Wednesday that it has decided to kill four kidnapped Russian Embassy workers after a deadline for meeting its demands passed. The statement did not say whether the decision has been carried out. The Mujahedeen Shura Council said Moscow failed to meet its demands for a full withdrawal of troops from Chechnya and that a 48-hour deadline set in a statement issued Monday had run out. The four embassy workers were abducted on June 3 in an attack on their car in which a fifth Russian was killed.
  • A parked car bomb also exploded near an ice cream shop in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City on Wednesday, killing at least three people and wounding eight, police Capt. Sattar Jabar said.
  • A source says the U.S. military is to release Wednesday a report saying that two GIs originally said to have been killed in a 2004 ambush in Iraq were in reality murdered by one or more Iraqi officers who were on patrol with them. The families of California National Guardsmen Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr. and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson are to be briefed Wednesday on the conclusions of investigators.
  • President Bush, meeting with European leaders at the EU summit in Vienna, Austria, is urging allies to make good on their pledges of financial assistance for Iraq's reconstruction. A top advisor to the president declined to name the countries that have not yet delivered, but said the president believes that coming up with the money now is crucial to the success of Iraq's new government. The administration says only $3 billion of $13 billion promised has gone to Baghdad.

    According to the charging document, the troops were staking out an intersection to see whether anyone appeared to place explosives in holes along the road. When no one came, Magincalda, Thomas, Pennington and Bacos went into a nearby home, stole a shovel and an AK-47 and went looking for an insurgent named Saleh Gowad.

  • When they couldn't find Gowad, they went into a house belonging to Awad and kidnapped him, prosecutors assert. Magincalda, Thomas, Pennington and Bacos forced Awad to the ground and bound his feet, then took him to their hideout and placed him in a hole.

    Hutchins, Thomas and Shumate fired M-16 rifles at Awad while Jackson and Jodka fired M-249 automatic weapons, killing him, according to the document.

    Bacos then fired the AK-47 into the air to expend some shell casings. Magincalda collected the casings and put them by the body, the paper said. Pennington cleaned prints off the AK-47 and put it in Awad's hands.

    Hutchins, the top-ranking Marine, told his men to make false statements and on April 28 submitted "a false written report regarding the factors and circumstances related to Awad's death," according to the document.

    The larceny charge relates to the theft of the AK-47 and the shovel.

    Siegel, Jodka's lawyer, said the Pentagon's decision to hold a news conference to announce the charges turned the event into a media circus.

    "There is nothing more serious that they could be charged with these could be capital murder charges — so this is literally a life-and- death situation. And I am just stunned that the government would decide to handle a case that is this serious in the way that they have," she said.

    Jeremiah Sullivan III, who represents Bacos, said, "These allegations are shocking, but my client is innocent. Believe me, there are two sides to this story."

    Separately, the U.S. military in Iraq announced that murder charges were filed against a fourth Army soldier in the shooting deaths May 9 of three civilians who had been detained by U.S. troops. Spc. Juston R. Graber, 20, of the 101st Airborne Division was charged with one count of premeditated murder, one count of attempted premeditated murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and making a false official statement.

    On Monday the military announced that three soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division had been charged with murder and other offenses in connection with the May 9 killings. It was not clear why charges against the fourth soldier were not announced until Wednesday.

    View CBS News In
    CBS News App Open
    Chrome Safari Continue