Friday, August 3, 2007
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) -- A jury sentenced a Marine sergeant Friday to 15 years in prison for the murder of an Iraqi civilian. Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III was also dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank to private, and verbally reprimanded.
Hutchins stood at attention and looked straight ahead as his sentence was announced. He then sat down and briefly put his head on the table in front of him and looked up with red eyes.
His wife Reyna Hutchins burst into tears and other family members appeared stunned, with his mother slumping in her chair.
On Thursday, Hutchins became the first and only member of an eight-member squad to be convicted of murder in the killing.
He had been charged with premeditated murder but premeditation was stricken from the verdict, meaning Hutchins no longer faced a mandatory life sentence.
Testimony from several of his comrades pointed to him as the mastermind of the plot to kidnap and kill a suspected insurgent.
Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny. He was acquitted of kidnapping, assault and housebreaking.
Testimony showed the victim was kidnapped and killed after the squad couldn't find the suspected insurgent. The civilian was initially identified by prosecutors as Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52.
The name, however, was dropped from charge sheets after defense attorneys contended the identity was not conclusive.
All eight members of the squad were initially charged with murder and kidnapping.
Four lower-ranking Marines and a Navy corpsman cut deals with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony and received sentences ranging from one to eight years in prison.
Earlier in the day, a separate jury sentenced a Marine corporal to time served and reduced his rank to private for conspiring to murder the Iraqi.
Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, has already served 448 days in custody and was to be freed Friday.
"I was very happy that I got a fair trial," Magincalda said after his sentencing. "I feel really good, and I feel proud to serve as a Marine."
Members of Magincalda's family, who had attended his court-martial, were overjoyed at his sentence.
"We can take him home. God answered our prayers," his grandmother Wynoma Leesch said.
Magincalda was acquitted of murder but also found guilty of larceny and housebreaking, and cleared of making a false official statement.
A jury last month acquitted Cpl. Trent Thomas of Madison, Ill., of murder but convicted him of conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping.
Thomas was sentenced to a reduction in rank and a bad-conduct discharge but no prison time.
The Iraqi civilian was pulled from his Hamdania home in April 2006 and shot in a hole. An AK-47 and shovel were placed nearby to make him look like an insurgent planting a bomb, according to the prosecution.
Magincalda was not accused of firing a shot but was charged for taking part in the plot.
Prosecutors had recommended Magincalda be given a bad-conduct discharge and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Because the jury did not give him a punitive discharge, Magincalda will retain military benefits, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that his psychiatrist testified was triggered by three combat tours and confinement in the brig.
Magincalda's jury consisted of five enlisted Marines and one officer. All had served at least one combat tour in Iraq.
"I think they had some really true insight into what was going on over there," Magincalda said.
He said he wants to re-enlist in the Marine Corps. If he is rejected, he said he will join his family in Manteca to help his father run a ranch.
The Marine said he'd had a difficult time in the brig, which he referred to as the "Camp Pendleton Hotel," but had received a lot of support from members of the public sympathetic to his case.
"It's been a horrible experience out there, I haven't felt good," Magincalda said. "All the support I received ... that kept me going."