Marine jailed over Iraqi death

John Jodka, 20, apologised to the family of Hashim Ibrahim Awad after admitting aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice during a day-long sentencing hearing at the Marines’ Camp Pendleton base.

Prosecutors said Jodka was one of eight US servicemen — seven Marines and a Navy medic — who forced 52-year-old Awad from his home in Hamdania outside Baghdad on April 26 before shooting him and staging a cover-up.

Prosecutor John Baker said Jodka had played a role in the killing of “a crippled man, a forgiving, simple man” leaving 11 children without a father.

Baker said Jodka had an opportunity to “stop the madness” and failed to do so.

Defence attorney Joseph Casas said the case against Jodka “was not that simple”, saying the young soldier had been misled by older Marines “he looked up to as heroes.”

Prosecutors said the Marines targeted Awad after an attempt to track down a suspected insurgent who lived nearby proved unsuccessful.

Awad was shot dead before Marines fabricated a cover story to make it look as if he was an insurgent planting roadside bombs.

Earlier, Jodka said he had decided to admit his guilt because it was “the right thing to do.”

“First and foremost, I offer a sincere apology to the Awad family,” Jodka said. “I’m (also) sorry for the trouble I’ve caused my family,” he added.

Military judge lieutenant-colonel David Jones said Jodka would face an additional three and a half years in custody if he failed to keep to a pre-trial agreement to blow the whistle on other soldiers on trial in the case.

Jodka became the second US serviceman to be jailed for playing a part in the killing. Navy Corpsman Melson Bacos was given a one-year sentence last month after agreeing to a plea deal that will see him testify against other soldiers implicated in the killing.

So far, three servicemen, including Bacos and Jodka, have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the case. A fourth member of the group is expected to plead guilty next week.

The case is one of several during the Iraq war in which US armed service members are accused of crimes or abuses of Iraqi civilians.

In a separate case, one of four US soldiers accused of raping an Iraqi girl last spring and killing her and her family has pleaded guilty and will testify against the others.

Spc. James Barker agreed to the plea deal to avoid the death penalty, said his civilian lawyer, David Sheldon.