The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings, Torture and Big Money
November 17th, 2006 - Jackson Sentenced to 21 Months in Hamdania Killing
By Mark Walker
North County Times
Friday, November 17, 2006
Camp Pendleton - Another apology was heard and another sentence was handed down Thursday in the killing of a retired Iraqi policeman, one of two civilian death cases haunting the Marine Corps and its premier West Coast base.
Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson was sentenced to 21 months in custody, with credit for six months served, and a general discharge for his guilty pleas to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the April 26 killing of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad. He could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Like two of the eight men charged who have pleaded guilty and been sentenced so far, the 23-year-old Tracy native expressed remorse and testified that he wished he'd had the courage to stop the killing.
"I would like to apologize to the Awad family," Jackson said during questioning by one of his military attorneys, Lt. Col. Paul Starita. "I would like to apologize to the Marine Corps, peers, friends and family. I apologize for any wrongdoing I have done."
Jackson's apology came at the culmination of his daylong sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty earlier this month and previous charges of murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and related offenses were dismissed.
He also told the judge, Lt. Col. Joseph Lisiecki, that he did not realize the man who was killed was Awad. The squad was after a suspected insurgent named Saleh Gowad. When they couldn't find Gowad, they marched into Awad's home and seized him.
Jackson told the court that even if the squad had found Gowad, he knew that kidnapping and killing that man was forbidden by the military's rules of engagement. If he had known it was not Gowad, Jackson said, he "would not have allowed it to happen."
"I would have done what I could to stop it," he said.
Jackson was joined by his parents and brother for the sentencing portion of his court-martial. None of Awad's 14 children or other family members have traveled to the U.S. for the court proceedings.
Lisiecki actually sentenced Jackson to nine years in prison and a dishonorable charge, but that punishment was set aside because of Jackson's plea agreement with Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the convening authority over the case as head of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Maj. Donald Plowman, the prosecutor in the case, had argued for a 10-year prison term for Jackson, pointing out that he was one of the men who killed Awad, and disputed the lance corporal's assertion that he would have tried to stop the shooting if he knew the man who was seized was someone other than Gowad. Jackson, he said, played an equal part in a squad that had one intent - to kill.
"An innocent man was taken because seven Marines and a Navy corpsman decided a man was going to die that night," the prosecutor said.
He alleged that Jackson discussed The Da Vinci Code novel and film with other squad members between the time the plot was agreed to and Awad was killed, a passage of time in which any of the men could have put a stop to what was happening - but did not.
"That suggests indifference," Plowman said, adding that statements taken from the men also show that if Gowad could not be located, someone else would be seized and killed to send a message to the village about insurgent activity.
"(Awad) fought for his life," the prosecutor said. "They had to zip-tie his hands, zip-tie his feet. They had to gag him."
Starita argued that Jackson has long demonstrated remorse through letters to his parents after he was first detained in Iraq and in statements made to investigators. He said the six months he has been incarcerated is sufficient punishment.
"Let him go home," Starita told the judge.
Jackson is one of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment charged in the Awad killing. He is the third defendant to be sentenced; a fourth will be sentenced next week.
Jackson joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and was on his first assignment in Iraq when Awad was killed. He said he planned early in life to join the Marines, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
The lance corporal's parents, Phil and Terri Jackson, also testified and expressed their condolences to the Awad family.
"We are anxious for (Tyler) to come home and we will support him in any way we can," Phil Jackson said.
Terri Jackson was emotional during her brief testimony, saying she considered the birth of her son a miracle after several miscarriages.
"I know he is very sorry for what happened over there in this incident," she testified.
On Wednesday, Pfc. John Jodka III was sentenced to 18 months in the brig with credit for six months already served for his role in Awad's death.
Last month, the squad's corpsman, Petty Officer Melson Bacos, was sentenced to 12 months in the brig after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap and make false official statements.
Next week, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. is to be sentenced. He also agreed to plead guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to his attorney, Steven Immel.
That would leave four remaining defendants in the case, including the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III of Plymouth, Mass. Those who have entered guilty pleas said Hutchins directed the plot.
The other defendants headed for trial are Cpls. Marshall Magincalda of Manteca and Trent Thomas of St. Louis and Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington of the Seattle area.
The Hamdania case and the bad light it has brought the Marine Corps and its code of honor developed within weeks of separate, unresolved allegations that a different Camp Pendleton squad violated the military's rules of engagement in Iraq in the killing of 24 civilians in the city of Haditha in November 2005.
A decision on whether any Marines involved in that incident will be charged with any crimes is expected soon.
This week, a now-retired Army general who oversaw a separate investigation into whether Marine Corps commanders in Iraq failed to properly investigate that incident was scheduled to brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill. That session was canceled, however, for reasons that were not immediately clear.
Lt. Gen. Mattis also is the convening authority over the Haditha case and will decide whether any of the troops from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment involved in that case will be charged with any wrongdoing.