Marine Gets No Jail After Conviction in Iraqi Murder Case

In August, 2006, six Marines had been charged charged with assault and murder in connection with the April 26 killing of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad.

Trent Thomas initially agreed to plead guilty and accept a 12 year sentence. Then he backed out and decided to proceed with his courts-martial.

He went to trial this week and on Wednesday, was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder (carrying the possibility of a life sentence) but acquitted of aggravated murder which mandated a life sentence.

His military jury deliberated less than an hour and despite the recommendation of the prosecution that he be sentenced to 15 years, has decided no additional jail time was appropriate.( Thomas has spent the last 14 months in the brig while awaiting trial.)

His punishment: a bad-conduct discharge and a reduction in rank to private.


As to the killing:

Thomas, of Madison, Ill., was among seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of snatching 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his house, marching him to a nearby ditch and shooting him after they botched an attempt to capture a suspected insurgent.

Prosecutors said squad members tried to cover up the killing by planting a shovel and AK-47 by Awad's body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb.

Perhaps the scariest thing of all is this statement from Thomas after learning of the jury's sentencing decision:

"I've never been good at anything until I came to the Marine Corps," said Thomas, who served three combat tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart for the 2004 siege on Fallujah. "It's pretty obvious Michael Jordan was meant to play basketball. Tiger Woods was meant to play golf. The Marine Corps, it's me.''

< Gates Responds | Bush Confirms Power of CIA in Detainee Interrogations >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    The Fortunes of War and its ugly realities (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Aaron on Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 10:42:43 PM EST
    That's the way war is, you can rob, rape, murder and kill, and most often there are no consequences.  And in the context of this conflict, this is about as much justice is your likely to find.  If we're not going to hold George W. Bush accountable for his crimes, then we cannot rightly hold any of those under his command accountable either. From the beginning, the United States of America has disregarded its own law and rules of war, is it any wonder that our soldiers in the field are continuing this trend?

    US forces in Iraq have now allied themselves with the Sunni militias in Al Anbar province, over the objections of our shiite allies in the government we created. We have now allied ourselves with forces who just a few months ago we were referring to as thugs and murderers, who are directly responsible for the the vast majority of US military and coalition deaths in Iraq. Just a few weeks ago our new allies were actively killing American soldiers at every opportunity.  So all bets are off now, with a whole new round of horrors and atrocities in store for the Iraqi people, courtesy of the Bush administration.

    No longer will the United States and its transient allies in the region continue some pretense of fighting an ethical war of righteousness and freedom.  We have now reached the point where the president of the United States is telling his commanders in the field to do whatever it takes to manufacture the face of victory to present to the American people, in order to avoid a pullout of our occupation force.

    Watch for the already tightly controlled journalistic presence in Iraq to find itself under new far more draconian restrictions, as the rules of war shift from superficially honorable to unabashedly dishonorable.  It's the end game in this scenario, and the Iraqi people will find themselves bearing the brunt of the slaughter which is to come.

     Now it's going to get really ugly, in Iraq and here in America.

    excellent comment, Aaron, (none / 0) (#2)
    by leap on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 01:36:06 AM EST
    well thought through and reasoned, and I fear perfectly prescient. It is hard to realize that our Congress has absolutely no strength or spirit, that they have allowed this fascist administration to blossom into the titanic corpse flower it has become. This country deserves what happens to it to allow such horrors onto the world. My better years are behind me, but I'm sad for the young people who won't know what hit them or what could have been. Sad.

    Marine gets no jail (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by soozip on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 01:38:09 PM EST
    OK, I'll admit upfront I may be a little biased here. My son was a Marine who served three tours in Iraq. He knew some of these men and I know some of the parents. This last deployment was in his words, "The most dangerous of them all." To put that in perspective, the first was the invasion, the second was the battle for Fallujah. And this one was even more dangerous... That being said, I'd like to fill in a few details that might create a little more understanding of this case.

    These young men, most between the ages of 18-22, were arrested in early May 2006. While still in Iraq they were held in solitary confinement for two weeks undergoing intense questioning. These interrogations were non-stop, without breaks, and no attorneys present. Among other things, they were threatened with the death penalty. The families knew nothing of any of this until their sons were flown back to Camp Pendleton in late May--a flight for which they were each later charged $1,600. They were finally allowed to call their families from the brig.

    Imagine worrying about your son in the war and getting a call that he's back in the US in jail.

    Even though they had not been charged with anything they were kept in what amounts to solitary confinement, not even allowed out of their individual cells for meals.They were chained and shackled for any movements, including visits with their families, visits that were in a room the size of a closet, separated by thick glass.

    They weren't officially charged until June 21.

    In early July they were finally allowed out of their cells to eat their meals in an area separated from the other inmates. By mid-July they were FINALLY appointed military counsel. The appointed attorneys had full caseloads (one had thirty other cases, one was out of state). With the threat of the death penalty or life in prison without parole, the families  ended up hiring private attorneys (many former military) to see that their sons got the best counsel possible.

    Is it any wonder some of these kids ended up with a plea bargain? Their testimony is basically the only thing the prosecution has to go on. If you followed the news about this trial you'll see that the judge ruled it was the murder of an "unknown Iraqi", not the original victim the prosecution claimed. I'm not an attorney so I'm a little fuzzy here but it appears the prosecution didn't share this evidence with the defense until eleven days before the trial. Eleven days when they've had over a year...

    Trent Thomas was convicted and sentenced by a jury of his peers--combat veterans. It seems to me that these people are the only only ones who can truly judge him. The rest of us haven't "walked a mile in his shoes."

    The final two trials in this case begin next week.

    soozip (1.00 / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 07:27:59 PM EST
    Even though they had not been charged with anything they were kept in what amounts to solitary confinement, not even allowed out of their individual cells for meals.

    I understand. Now go compare the lack of symnpathy for these men and the amount showered on Padilla.


    A True Social Liberal (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 12:41:47 AM EST
    I think it highly likely that (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 05:40:37 PM EST
    whoever was in command during this incident is fried.  I don't know if they should be or not, I don't know if they deserves it or not because the Marine ground troops have all been stretched and stretched and stretched beyond human limits.  I do know though that many have wondered why more Commanders weren't getting slammed much harder than those they were commanding and I think it might happen that way in this instance.

    misdemeanor murder & kidnapping (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Sailor on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 11:34:47 PM EST
    maybe the marine was disabled, but it is certain the 52 yr old iraqi he helped drag out of his home was disabled. Then the disabled iraqi was shot 9 times and had weapons planted on him.

    This atrocity came to light because there was irrefutable evidence that the iraqi, due to being in a wheelchair, could not have planted the bombs.

    BTW, the navy corpsman who was only charged with NOT preventing the premeditated murder and kidnapping, is serving prison time. (One of those that Reasonable mentioned.)

    I don't care about these murderers' excuses, no matter what stress you are under you can't possibly think it is OK to drag a disabled person out of his home and execute him.

    And the 'just following orders' excuse didn't work in Nuremberg and should work in bushville.

    The military is broken, the system of justice is broken, the country is broken.

    Here's the scariest thing to me (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 01:15:47 AM EST
    "God can do anything but fail," the 25-year-old said shortly after a jury decided against giving him any prison time for kidnapping and conspiring to murder. "It didn't matter whether I took the 12-year deal or went to court. God's willing for me to get out."
    Yet more evidence of the christofascist corruption that is inherent in this, as king george calls it, this crusade.

    I watched a video of him (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 04:25:08 AM EST
    I think he is saying things that make sense to him and feel reassuring to him based on "Christian Facts" he had stored in his brain before witnessing 25 different blasts. We have no idea how badly he was concussed in any of them.  My father's head injury was a frontal lobe injury and that is the portion of our brain where we make decisions and develop our capacity for patience and delayed gratification.  He seems very frozen emotionally in the video and who knows if that is due to PTSD or brain injury, my father is sadly that way though too and no hope of ever being any different.  If he has frontal lobe injury we can guarantee no ability to make thoughtful decisions and with my dad if you throw some stress in there he just does a follow the leader sort of thing with the strongest personality around him.  It has been a God send at times like when his parents died because I had to take care of most of the legal estate things for him and because of the amount of stress he didn't whine and complain once, just followed me around like a puppy.  The scariest thing for me is how many of our ground troops have been concussed by at least one IED or large explosion and many have been in the witness vicinity (whatever defines that) of a large number....every single one of those soldiers has an incrediblely much larger possibility of being our next Trent and another and another and another.

    Reasonable (1.00 / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 07:29:15 PM EST
    Accept as a given that the insurgents in Iraq read the news from the US

    Does this mean that you agree that when the Reid calls the war lost it is helpful to the terrorists??

    Two other quotes (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 12:06:54 PM EST
    The defense also argued that Thomas' judgment was clouded by brain injuries from repeated explosions. An expert said Thomas witnessed more than 25 bomb blasts during his three tours of Iraq.

    and this

    "I have never heard of a court-martial that convicted someone of conspiracy to murder and kidnapping and not adjudicate some kind of (prison) sentence," Umberg said. "Obviously there was some sympathy, maybe even empathy, because all of the panel members had served in Iraq."

    Three Iraq tours and exposure to 25 different bomb blasts, I would say PTSD and traumatic brain injury and this soldier's frontal probably ain't working so hot anymore. His fellow soldiers know it just listening to the guy talk as they are seeing a lot of this and it isn't pretty.  Since nobody will stop the crazy deployments and the insanity of Iraq I don't think a jury of Marines that have been there are going to be throwing the book much at other soldiers.  They are being asked to do the impossible and they aren't surviving the situation very well and all they have these days are each other.