By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006 – Seven Marines and a sailor were charged today with kidnapping, murder and conspiracy in connection with the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, Iraq, in late April. Officials announced the charges, which also included making false official statements, larceny, assault, housebreaking and obstruction of justice, during a news conference today at Camp Pendleton, Calif
Marines charged in the incident were: Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Pfc. John J. Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington and Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, a hospital corpsman, was also charged. All eight were assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Local Iraqis brought the incident to the Marine leadership's attention during a regularly scheduled meeting May 1. Following a preliminary inquiry by Multinational Forces West in Iraq, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service launched an investigation May 7, Marine Col. Stewart Navarre, chief of staff for Marine Corps Installations West, told reporters today. Ten Marines and the sailor alleged to have been involved were removed from their unit May 12 and reassigned to the battalion headquarters at Camp Fallujah. They were restricted to their living quarters until their redeployment to Camp Pendleton.
Seven of the Marines and the sailor were placed in pre-trial confinement in the Camp Pendleton Brig on May 24. Navarre declined to discuss details about the other four Marines, saying the matter is still under investigation. Navarre said the Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by Marines seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating them. "The Marine Corps prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions," he said.
"We are absolutely committed to holding fair and impartial proceedings in full compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice," he said.
In the meantime, Navarre emphasized, the accused are presumed innocent. "I am confident that the military justice system will ensure a fair result in each case," he said. In a related matter, Army officials announced today that a fourth soldier has been charged in connection with the deaths of three male detainees during a May 9 operation near Thar Thar Canal in Iraq's Salah ad Din province. Army Spc. Juston Graber from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, was charged with premeditated murder, attempted premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder and making a false official statement.
Graber will remain at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, where he is restricted to the brigade's unit area performing administrative duties, officials said. Three other soldiers from the same unit were charged earlier in connection with the incident. They are Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey R. Clagett. A statement released by Multinational Force Iraq officials said the soldiers' unit commander ordered an inquiry to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three detainees on the day the alleged murders occurred. Army Criminal Investigation Command conducted the investigation.
Officials emphasized that the accused are presumed innocent until charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.