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Plea Deal in Iraqi Murder Case
Associated Press  |  October 21, 2006
SAN DIEGO - A Camp Pendleton Marine will plead guilty next week for his role in the killing of an Iraqi civilian last April, his attorney said Friday.

Pfc. John J. Jodka, 20, of Encinitas, would be the first Marine to plead guilty in the case, in which six other Marines and one Navy corpsman were also charged with murder.

Jodka will plead guilty to assault and obstruction of justice, his father, John Jodka, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The elder Jodka said murder, kidnapping and other charges would be dropped in exchange for the plea, but later said it was premature to discuss details of the arrangement.

Attorney Joseph Casas, who represents Jodka, said he could not disclose details of the negotiations but said the deal was "in the best interests of my client and the best interests of justice and the best interests of the Marine Corps."

Casas said Jodka would testify at his court-martial and that sentencing was not expected until Nov. 15.

"J.J. will have his chance to talk about his account of what happened in Hamdania," Casas said, adding he would be calling witnesses during the court appearance.

Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Sean Gibson said it would be inappropriate to discuss any potential negotiations between the government and the defense.

The eight troops were charged in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the town of Hamdania, west of Baghdad. As part of a separate plea negotiation, the corpsman recently testified about what he remembers from the incident.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, who was on patrol with the Marines, pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to kidnapping and conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors.

Bacos said the squad entered Hamdania on April 26 while searching for a known insurgent who had been captured three times, then released. The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed Awad.

Bacos said the squad took him to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a bomb. Bacos was sent to 12 months confinement; murder and other charges against him were dropped.

Still in the brig at Camp Pendleton are Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent Thomas, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate. Bacos and Jodka were moved to a separate brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar earlier this month to ensure their safety, attorneys said.

All face courts-martial except for Hutchins. A decision on whether he will be referred to trial has not yet been announced.

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