Marine escapes jail for Iraqi murder plot
Article from: Agence France-Presse
July 21, 2007 06:28am
A US Marine convicted of plotting to murder an Iraqi civilian outside Baghdad last year escaped a jail sentence for his crimes, the military said.
Trent Thomas, who was found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap and murder Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania on April 26 last year, hugged his family after receiving a reduction in rank and bad conduct discharge.
The 25-year-old former lance corporal, who has been held in detention since the allegations first surfaced last year, could have faced a life prison sentence for his role in Mr Awad’s killing.
On Thursday prosecutors had recommended Thomas be jailed for 15 years in order to send a message to other Marines during a hearing at the Camp Pendleton base outside San Diego.
Mr Awad, a 52-year-old father of 11, was taken from his home in a late-night raid by eight US servicemen and killed before the Marines involved covered up the incident to make it look as if Mr Awad was an insurgent planting a bomb.
The killing is one of a series of incidents that have tarnished the reputation of US forces in Iraq.
In closing arguments, military prosecutor lieutenant colonel John Baker had told the jury that the evidence presented had “proven to you that Corporal Trent D. Thomas is a murderer.”
“Corporal Thomas failed when he contracted to take part in this conspiracy and to cover up and lie,” Lt-Col Baker said.
“This is a plan to kill somebody in cold blood. They (the squad members) were a mob. Vigilante justice is against the law. He (Thomas) might as well have put a signature on a death warrant.”
However, defence lawyers said Thomas’s judgment had so been impaired by post traumatic stress disorder and brain damage following three tours of duty in Iraq that he went along with the plot.
Five other servicemen had already pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to lesser charges in connection with the incident.
One of the five, Robert Pennington, was jailed for eight years in February after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping – the same charges Thomas had denied but was convicted of.
Gary Solis, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, who is also a former Marine judge and a leading authority on military law, said Thomas had benefited from a sympathetic jury.
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