[JURIST] US Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington [advocacy website] was sentenced to eight years in military prison [Camp Pendleton press release] Saturday for his role in the death of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in April 2006. The original sentence of 14 years confinement was reduced to eight according to a pre-trial agreement; Pennington was also reduced in rank to Pvt./E-1 and given a dishonorable discharge. The sentence is the harshest to date in the case, which has implicated seven other servicemen [JURIST report]. Pennington pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last Tuesday to charges of murder, kidnapping, housebreaking, larceny and conspiracy; the murder, housebreaking, and larceny charges will be dismissed if he abides by a plea bargain that would require him to testify for the government. The sentence will automatically be sent to an appeals court for review, and Pennington's lawyer plans to try to have the sentence commuted.
Pennington and his squad were accused of shooting the unarmed Awad and leaving his body by the side of the road with a shovel and AK-47 to make him look like an insurgent. Pennington testified that he did assist in restraining and transporting Awad but that he did not shoot the victim. In November, Pennington claimed [JURIST report] that agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] blocked his access to a defense lawyer and threatened him with the death penalty during interviews in an effort to prevent the prosecution from using statements he made during his court-martial. NCIS agents have denied Pennington's allegations. US Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, [JURIST reports] and Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson [advocacy website; JURIST report] have also pleaded guilty in exchange for their testimony in the case; US Marine Cpl. Trent Thomas was re-charged last week after withdrawing his guilty plea [JURIST reports] in February. AP has more.