The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings, Torture and Big Money
December 7th, 2006 - Trial Date for Marine Charged in Iraq Killing
By Marty Graham
Thu Dec 7, 2006 3:35 PM ET
Camp Pendleton, Calif - A military court on Thursday set the court-martial of a U.S. Marine suspected of being the ringleader in the kidnap and murder of an Iraqi grandfather for April 23.
Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins, 22, did not enter a plea to charges of conspiracy, murder, kidnapping and obstructing an investigation in the killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in the Iraqi town of Hamdania in April 2006.
He could face life in prison if convicted.
Three other Marines and a Navy medic have pleaded guilty and received sentences of 21 months or less in prison in exchange for their testimony against the others.
They have testified that Hutchins led the group of eight on an unauthorized late-night mission to kill an insurgent in which the wrong man was killed.
According to their testimony, four Marines stayed back to protect the area while three Marines and the medic went to Awad's house, dragged out the disabled former police officer and put him in a bomb crater with a stolen rifle and a shovel to make it look like he was planting a bomb.
Six of the eight then fired at Awad, killing him.
Hutchins' defense attorney Rich Brannon said he intends to fight the charges.
The killing is one of several incidents in which the conduct of American troops in Iraq has hurt the U.S. image abroad.
Charges are expected in the next few weeks in a November 2005 case in which Marines are suspected of going on a rampage through the Iraqi village of Haditha, killing two dozen civilians.
One of the questions that may emerge in the Hamdania court martial is whether there was a climate of command allowing Marines to overstep their rules of engagement.
Lance Cpl. Jerry Schumate, who pled guilty last month and was sentenced to 21 months custody, testified he had once seen Hutchins choke a civilian into unconsciousness while his lieutenant participated in an interrogation.
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