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US serviceman withdraws guilty plea at sentencing for Hamdania murder

[JURIST] US Marine Cpl. Trent Thomas withdrew his guilty plea [JURIST report] in the second day of his sentencing hearing Thursday on unpremeditated murder charges stemming from the alleged murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] in the village of Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in April 2006. Thomas, who pleaded guilty in January, said that he no longer believes he is guilty, but rather that he was following a lawful order from superiors.

On Wednesday, Seaman Recruit Melson J. Bacos testified that Thomas and Cpl. Marshall Magincalda entered Awad's house and dragged him out. Bacos testified that Thomas was the one who grabbed Awad's arm and forced him to march away. The group of eight servicemen of which they were a part allegedly shoved Awad into a hole and shot him, leaving an AK-47 by his head to make him appear to be an insurgent. AP has more.

Thomas was the fifth serviceman to plead guilty in the case, in which all seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were originally charged [JURIST report]. Bacos, US Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka [JURIST reports] and Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson [advocacy website; JURIST report] have also pleaded guilty in exchange for their testimony in the case. All have named US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III [JURIST report] as the mastermind of the plan. Jodka has been sentenced to 18 months in military custody while Jackson and Shumate [JURIST reports] have both received 21-month sentences. Hutchins faces court-martial [JURIST report] for murder, kidnapping and other charges. AP has more.

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