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A third Marine pleads guilty

Times Staff Writer

A 21-year-old lance corporal who joined the Marine Corps to “have adventures I could tell about” became the fourth defendant Tuesday to plead guilty to dragging an unarmed Iraqi from his home and executing him as he begged for his life.

Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. was sentenced to 21 months in the brig after pleading guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Meanwhile, lawyers for another defendant, Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, sought to have incriminating statements he made to investigators about the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad barred from his court-martial.

Pennington testified Monday that his request for an attorney during questioning in Iraq was ignored by the agents. The agents testified that he never made such a request. The issue is being considered by Lt. Col. Eugene Robinson, the judge in Pennington’s court-martial.

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Shumate, Pennington and six other members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, were charged in the April 26 death in Hamandiya, an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

After pleading guilty to reduced charges, Navy corpsman Melson Bacos was sentenced to a year in the brig, Pfc. John J. Jodka III to 18 months and Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson to 21 months.

The Marines considered “key players” in the incident -- Pennington, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III -- have not been offered plea bargains. They face charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, which could bring life sentences.

Shumate, who fired 10 to 20 rounds from his M-16 at Awad, said he had remorse for killing the 52-year-old former police officer.

The judge, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks, said he would have sentenced Shumate to eight years and a dishonorable discharge. But under a plea bargain approved by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, the convening authority, the maximum penalty was set at 21 months and a general discharge.

In Pennington’s case, prosecutors also introduced a video made by several Marines two days after Awad’s slaying in which Pennington said he hated all Iraqis, adding, “Kill them all and let Allah sort it out.”

tony.perry@latimes.com


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