Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US Marine jailed 18 months for murder

LONG ARM OF THE LAW John Jodka became the second US serviceman to be jailed for involvement in the killing. Melson Bacos was given a one-year sentence last month

AP , CAMP PENDLETON, CALIFORNIA

A US Marine involved in the death of an Iraqi civilian was jailed for 18 months on Wednesday after admitting involvement in the killing and apologizing to the dead man's family.

John Jodka, 20, gave his apology to the family of Hashim Ibrahim Awad after pleading guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice during a day-long hearing at the Marines' Camp Pendleton base.

Prosecutors said Jodka was one of eight US servicemen -- seven Marines and a Navy medic -- who forced 52-year-old Awad from his home in Hamdania outside Baghdad on April 26 before shooting him and staging a cover-up.

The case is one of a string of incidents that have tarnished the reputation of US forces in Iraq.

Prosecutor John Baker said Jodka had played a part in the killing of "a crippled man, a forgiving, simple man" leaving 11 children without a father. Jodka had an opportunity to "stop the madness" but failed to do so, Baker said.

Defence attorney Joseph Casas said the case "was not that simple," saying the soldier had been misled by older Marines "he looked up to as heroes."

Prosecutors say the Marines targeted Awad after an attempt to catch a suspected insurgent who lived nearby proved unsuccessful.

Awad was shot dead before the squad fabricated a cover story to make it look as if he was an insurgent planting roadside bombs.

Earlier, Jodka said he had decided to admit his guilt because it was "the right thing to do."

"First and foremost, I offer a sincere apology to the Awad family," Jodka said.

"I'm [also] sorry for the trouble I've caused my family," he added.

The military judge, Lieutenant Colonel David Jones, said Jodka would face an additional three and a half years in custody if he failed to keep to a pre-trial agreement to blow the whistle on other soldiers on trial in the case.

Jodka became the second US serviceman to be jailed for involvement in the killing. Navy corpsman Melson Bacos was given a one-year sentence last month after agreeing to a plea deal.

So far three servicemen, including Bacos and Jodka, have pleaded guilty to charges related to the case. A fourth serviceman is expected to enter a guilty plea next week.

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