Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US Marine cuts deal in Iraqi murder case, details not yet clear

ONE BY ONE Melson Bacos, who was on patrol with the Marines, also pleaded guilty early this month to lesser charges under a prosecutor deal

AP , SAN DIEGO

A US Marine will plead guilty next week for his role in the killing of an Iraqi civilian last April, his attorney said.

Private First Class John Jodka, 20, would be the first Marine to plead guilty in the case, in which six other Marines and one Navy corpsman were also charged with murder.

Jodka will plead guilty to assault and obstruction of justice, his father, John Jodka, told reporters in a telephone interview on Friday.

The elder Jodka said murder, kidnapping and other charges would be dropped in exchange for the plea, but later said it was premature to discuss details of the arrangement.

Attorney Joseph Casas, who represents Jodka, said he could not disclose details of the negotiations but said the deal was "in the best interests of my client and the best interests of justice and the best interests of the Marine Corps."

Casas said Jodka would testify at his court-martial and that sentencing was not expected until Nov. 15.

"J.J. will have his chance to talk about his account of what happened in Hamdania," Casas said, adding he would be calling several witnesses during the court appearance.

Marine Corps spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sean Gibson said it would be inappropriate to discuss any potential negotiations between the government and the defense.

The eight troops were charged in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the town of Hamdania, west of Baghdad. As part of a separate plea negotiation, the corpsman recently testified about what he remembered from the incident.

Petty Officer Third Class Mel-son Bacos, who was on patrol with the Marines, pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to kidnapping and conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors.

Bacos said the squad entered 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 abducted Awad who was sleeping with his wife.

Bacos said the squad took him to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a bomb. Bacos was sentenced to 12 months confinement; murder and other charges against him were dropped.

Still in the brig at Camp Pendleton in California are Sargent Lawrence Hutchins, Corporal Trent Thomas, Lance Corporal Robert Pennington, Corporal Marshall Magincalda, Lance Corporal Tyler Jackson and Lance Corporal Jerry Shumate.

Bacos and Jodka were moved to a separate brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar earlier this month to ensure their safety, attorneys said.

All face courts-martial except for Hutchins.

A decision on whether he will be referred to trial has not yet been announced.

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