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Marine’s Calculated Risk Paid Off in Trial

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Aired 4/19/09

A military jury says Cpl. Trent Thomas is free to leave the Brig and go home. The Camp Pendleton Marine was convicted of kidnapping and conspiring to murder Hashim Ibrahim Awad, an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps has more.

Thomas took a calculated risk by withdrawing his guilty plea and going to trial. And it appears to have paid off. The jury dealt Thomas a relatively light sentence: dishonorable discharge and reduction in rank. He already spent 14 months in the Brig. Military law expert Gary Solis says a jury can either get social vengeance or show some sympathy.

Solis: And in this case, the jury is having it both ways. They're saying, "We can't have this kind of conduct in the Marine Corps — you're out." And at the same time they're saying, "We sympathize with the situation you were in and the circumstances of your fight, so no Brig time."

Five of Thomas' squadmates pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors. They got harsher sentences, ranging from one to eight years in prison.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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