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Pendleton 8 Exposed - The Real Story, Part 1By Kit Lange Special to Salem-News.com
Unfair trials? Coerced confessions? The Marines hung out to dry over the incident at Hamandia could be innocent.
(CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.) - Two years ago the nation was shocked to hear of Marines coming home from the battlefield in shackles. This is not how we treat our heroes, not when they are highly decorated, highly trained, and even more experienced. It was preposterous, we said, to charge Marines with murder for shooting the enemy.
Isn’t that what we train them to do?
Now at last the real story is available. Over the next few weeks, I will tell you the real story of what happened that day in Hamdania. I will show you the autopsy reports, combat logs and diaries that prove them innocent (and that were barred from the trial!), and the tactics the government used to keep it all under wraps. What’s more, I’ll tell you what they were trying so hard to hide.
First, read the timeline below. It is the first part of a chronological narrative of the events of the last two years. This will give you an overview of the case, and will help you understand the documents in later installments of this story.
Be warned–this is not a pretty story. It’s long. It can be confusing. It will disillusion you, shock you, and devastate you. Most of all, it will make you angry. We have agonized over whether some of this info should be publicized, but in the end there can be no good purpose served by allowing this trend to continue. At the end of the day are a group of men who deserve the truth. After their double and triple combat tours, after their injuries and emotional scars in the line of duty, we owe them this, at least.
Hamdania Timeline (editorial comments in italics)
April 26, 2006: Marines report Iraqi insurgent planting IED. The insurgent was killed in the ensuing firefight.
May 1, 2006: Five days after the incident, Hamdania Tribal members report incident to Marine Corps commanders, alleging murder of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a policeman under Saddam’s regime.
Why is it that, although Awad was ‘well-known‘ to Hamdania police, tribal, and family members, no one was able to identify him–not even his own brother?
Commanding officer, Lt. Col. Furness asked for a formal investigation. “Haditha had just blown up and I believed it was prudent to protect the Command, the Marines, and the Marine Corps,” Furness stated later. He failed to protect his junior Marines.
May 4, 2006: Initial inquiry completed and briefed to Multi-National Force West.
Regardless of conflicting and questionable testimony of Iraqi tribal and family members, NCIS was asked to investigate.
Original, so-called ‘witness reports’ were gathered and translated by what the Washington Post refers to as reporters. These are Iraqi stringers whose backgrounds, the Post admits, have not been checked. The testimonies of so-called witnesses in the reports are conflicting. The Post states that its information could “not be independently confirmed.” The Post also claims that:
1. “According to accounts given by Hashim’s neighbors and members of his family, and apparently supported by photographs, the Marines went to Hashim’s home, took the 52-year-old disabled Iraqi outside and shot him four times in the face. The assault rifle and shovel next to his body had been planted by the Marines, who had borrowed them from a villager, family members and other residents said.”
2. “The Marines grabbed Hashim by the front of his cotton robe as soon as he came to the door, pulling him from the house, said one of his sons, Nadir, 26, an arts student in Iraq…Less than an hour later, we heard shooting.”
Note: The prosecution charged that the Marines took Awad out of the home, marched him down the road to the hole, bound him and shot him. Family members and neighbors said Awad was shot in the face four times when he came to the door. One of Awad’s sons said he was pulled from the house and they heard shots less than an hour later. The Iraqis apparently couldn’t get ‘their’ version straight. How did the prosecution arrive at its version; toss a coin?
3. “The Post also obtained photos of a dead man, identified by the family and Iraqi authorities as Hashim, wrapped in a plastic sheeting in a wooden casket. What appeared to be at least four bullet holes could be seen in the photo-two in one cheek, one in the chin, and one in the lip.”
Awad’s brother stated, “And it was clear a bullet had been shot into the mouth and broke part of his bottom teeth.” “At daylight, the family found a wide hole in the dirt road about 500 yards from their home, wet with bloodstains and littered with discarded plastic gloves.”
“Going in search of Hashim, family members were told that Marines had brought his body to a local police station, Nasir said.
Note: On October, 2006, five months after NCIS’ investigation, Navy Corpsman Bacos’ testimony, given during the investigation in May 2006, conflicts with Iraqi testimony.
Bacos said, “I witnessed Sgt. Hutchins dead check the man and fire three rounds into the man’s [head]. [Then] Cpl. Thomas fired 7 to 10 rounds into the man’s [head].”
Bacos’ testimony conflicts with Iraqi testimony, with squad members, and with Thomas, himself.
Cpl. Thomas, NCIS Agent James Connolly, and Lt. Col. Furness all said Sgt. Hutchins fired 3 rounds into the man’s head to put him out of his misery after Thomas shot him. Yet Bacos says Sgt. Hutchins performed a dead check then “Thomas fired 7 to 10 rounds into the man’s [head].” For Bacos to be believed, the deceased would now have a minimum of 10 holes in his head; performing the first military 10- to 13-hole (dual) (consecutive) dead check.
Bacos contradicts testimony by the other squad members (including Thomas).
CPL Trent Thomas shot 7 to 10 rounds into the man’s torso. NCIS and the prosecution couldn’t even get the men who made plea deals to corroborate one another. NCIS, the Prosecution, Judges at the hearings and courts-martial for the accused, blindly accepted Bacos’ word. Then again, it was NCIS, after all, who gave the prosecution its version.
Note: Both, NCIS agent Connolly and Lt. Col. Furness, later, testified again in court that Sgt. Hutchins performed a dead-check to put the man out of his misery.
In Fallujah, 2004, a Marine was videotaped dead-checking an insurgent in a Mosque. After five months of investigating, no charges were leveled because the commanding officer understood the mind-set of this young Marine. He stated that it was an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of war – and not a criminal violation.
Sgt. Hutchins did not order anyone to shoot. He performed a dead check and put a man out of his misery; an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of war; not a criminal violation.
May 7, 2006: NCIS begins criminal investigation.
For eleven days, in a coercive environment, NCIS denied the Marines and Navy Corpsman their Constitutional right to presence of counsel. Agents failed to audio or videotape interrogations, which went on for as long as 12 hours. There was no corroboration; no proof of NCIS’ remarks. May 10, 2006: Marines and Navy Corpsman were detained and restricted to living quarters at Camp Fallujah, Iraq pending return to Camp Pendleton.
Coercive interrogations continued at Camp Fallujah, where on their wall NCIS had a photo of a rubber hose on a white board, with the words, “My Psychological Friend”.
Note: The GAO claims that NCIS interview policies are in accordance with generally accepted federal law enforcement standards and applicable laws. Specifically; NCIS interview policies prohibit the indiscriminate display of weapons or the use of threats, promises, inducements, or physical or mental abuse by agents attempting to influence an individual during interviews.
Note: Article 31 of the UCMJ; Evidence acquired in violation of the rights of the accused can be inadmissible. NCIS, DCIS, and FBI policies permit audio or video recordings of witness or suspect interviews in significant or controversial cases. Hamdania and Haditha are both.
Note: “June 26, 2001, Chief Justice Rehnquist concluded that the Coercion inherent in Custodial Interrogation blurs the line between voluntary and involuntary statements, and thus heightens the risk that an individual will not be “accorded his privilege under the Fifth Amendment…Not to be compelled to incriminate himself.”
Note: “Agents do not have the authority to make any promises or suggestions of leniency or more severe action to induce a suspect to make a statement.” The accused testified they were threatened with the death penalty; “more severe action”.
May 24, 2006: Marines and Navy Corpsman arrive at Camp Pendleton.
The men traveled from Iraq to the U. S. on a commercial airliner unshackled, allowed to roam during layovers, and without real supervision. None of them made an attempt to flee. They obviously weren’t considered a flight risk.
May 25, 2006: Marines and Navy Corpsman were rounded up, shackled, and placed in “Maximum-In” restraint at the Camp Pendleton Brig.
Regardless of presumption of innocence and the fact that they were not a flight risk, they were shackled, placed in restraints and forced to remain in solitary confinement for three weeks. (Fourteen months later, September 23, 2007, NCTimes’ Mark Walker reported with reference to Lt. General James Mattis, the convening authority, “Mattis has said privately that keeping those men locked up ahead of trial was probably a mistake.”)
Sgt. Hutchins spent fourteen months in the brig before his court-martial. Unnecessary suffering while being presumed innocent because of a mistake? Is this acceptable treatment for our Marines?
June 1, 2006: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki claims that American violence against civilians had become almost habitual. He said, “We cannot forgive the violations of the dignity of the Iraqi people.” Sgt. Hutchins’ CO stated he wanted to protect the Command, the Corps, and the Marines.
June 14, 2006: Vice President Cheney stated that the Pendleton Eight were presumed to be innocent and should be treated as such.
June 15, 2006: Restraint level reevaluated and reduced to “medium-in” restraint.
June 21, 2006: The Pendleton Eight were officially charged with the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad.
Colonel Stewart Navarre was accused July 27, 2006, by defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan, of questioning his client and others in the brig before announcing charges. Attorneys also complained that NCIS agents attempted additional questioning of their clients without counsel’s knowledge or permission. Lt. Col. Sean Gibson did not deny the incident occurred.
July 11, 2006: Civilian attorneys complain that military attorneys assigned to assist their clients were bogged down with large caseloads. Counsel Jane Siegel said, “There are five experienced prosecutors with nothing else to do, sitting in offices and working these cases, and we are still sitting in starting blocks waiting for the assigned attorneys to be made available.”
Siegel said a preliminary autopsy report she received was for an exam nearly seven weeks after Awad’s death. The report noted “severe decomposition” as well as a lot of bullet wounds.
July 25, 2006: Completed autopsy report lacked conclusive evidence that the man’s hands and feet were bound as the government had alleged. The badly decomposed body was exhumed several weeks after burial. No photos of the body were taken, or so the prosecution claimed. The body was returned to Hamdania and reburied. The defense pathologist was only given the opportunity to form an opinion on the report done by the government’s pathologist–he was not given access to the body. There are, in fact, photos of the body but the defense is not allowed access.
According to defense attorney Joseph Casas, the number of bullet holes could not be determined.
August 3, 2006: Additional charges filed against Sgt. Hutchins, Cpl. Thomas, and Lance Cpl. Shumate for assaulting an insurgent, Khalid Hamad Daham, two weeks before the April 26 incident. Charges also filed against Lance Cpls. Lopezromo and Lever, and Pfc. Lewis.
NCIS investigators had this information in Iraq and withheld it. Defense attorneys Victor Kelley and Joseph Casas believed this was an attempt by prosecutors to intimidate people to testify against each other. The prosecution was successful!
August 13, 2006: NCTimes interview; “Pendleton Bracing for Start of Alleged War Crime Case.” Military Law professor Gary Solis, in reference to convening authority Lt. General James Mattis, stated, “The General is going to rely on his staff who rely on the prosecutors…Once charges have been preferred, that train has left the station and everyone is pretty much on board.”
The General (Convening Authority) relies on his staff, who relies on the Prosecutors? That doesn’t assure an accused a fair or impartial trial. How does that assure that the accused receive justice?
August 16, 2006: Charges are filed against Lt. Nathan Phan (the squad’s platoon leader and senior commander) for an alleged assault on insurgent Daham and two other insurgents. Sgt. Hutchins’ defense attorney, Rich Brannon, stated, “I don’t know any other reason that he (Phan) would be charged unless he is the person who issued the order…”
In a release announcing the charges against Phan, the Marine Corps stresses that he is presumed innocent, saying “The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by Marines very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating such incidents. The Marine Corps also prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions.”
August 22, 2006:Lt. General Mattis denies Pfc Jodka’s waiver of article 32 hearing.
Jodka had requested to skip the Article 32 and go straight to trial. Mattis’ reason for denial is that Jodka should have the benefit of a thorough and impartial investigation that an Article 32 investigation can provide. Defense attorney Casas intended to waive the hearing because military prosecutors constantly refused him access to evidence necessary for his defense.
By now, Hamdania and Haditha have generated great public interest in military justice. Several bloggers, commentators and veterans groups have raised questions about whether the system is fairly treating soldiers and Marines facing court-martial.
“Moreover, military justice could benefit considerably from moving to a system where the members (or jury, in civilian terms) are chosen at random, rather than being handpicked by the convening authority. The convening authority is that official who is in charge of the command and the one who determines whether to bring charges in the first instance.”
“The current rules that require the convening authority to appoint members based upon detailed factors, such as “age, education, training, experience and length of service,” give the appearance that the panel is beholden to the commander who selected them for duty.”
“If our personnel are increasingly being asked to defend democracy abroad, it is only right that our public believe they are receiving the same considerations at home.”
August 23, 2006: Several defense attorneys request waivers of Article 32 hearings for their clients.
Lt. General Mattis denies all of them. Reason: “in order to make a fair and impartial decision on the disposition of these cases.” Defense attorney Joseph Casas says the Marine Corps has “systematically denied” their requests for evidence, including intelligence reports and the ‘rules of engagement’ in place at the time.
What happened to the investigative search for the truth at an Article 32 hearing? What happened to General Mattis’ claim to fairness and impartiality?
August 30, 2006: Article 32 hearings for Cpl. Magincalda and Pfc. Jodka. The lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. John Baker, announces the prosecution does not intend to seek the death penalty against Pfc. Jodka.
Note: Uniform Code of Military Justice 845. Article 45: Pleas of the Accused.
(b) A plea of guilty by the accused may not be received to any charge or specification alleging an offense for which the death penalty may be adjudged.
The prosecution apparently never intended to follow through with the death penalty. The prosecution had an open door to get those who were no longer threatened by the death penalty to make plea deals in exchange for lesser sentences and testimony against the others.
Marine Corps Times, August 30, 2006: “The lack of witnesses, including 11 NCIS agents who initially would have testified, shortened the legal proceedings and stunted the details of the alleged murder and government’s evidence that would have surfaced during questioning by either side.”
Convenient for the prosecution. Why allow the accused to face their accusers when you can coerce them into making plea deals; eliminating the necessity of corroborative evidence, which is required in the defense of an accused.
August 31, 2006: AP Article: “Confessions Key to Case Against Marine Murderers.”
Read the title to this article and let there be no doubt that the press tainted, and continued to taint, the accused’ chances of any fair or impartial hearing; much less court-martial.
Thomas Watkins, AP, states that alleged confessions appear to form the crux of the government’s case. Coercion can be very effective! “Prosecutor Capt. Nicholas Gannon claimed the evidence included a confession by squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins and a confessional video by Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.”
“What exactly they confessed to was unclear; Prosecutors did not elaborate.”
September 12, 2006: Article 32 hearing for Lance Cpl. Jeremy Shumate. Lt. Col. John Baker announces the prosecution does not intend to seek the death penalty. This assures the prosecution’s plan to obtain plea deals since it had no corroborating evidence. NCIS investigator, Kyle Casey testifies on the stand under oath that Shumate was very quiet, but did not make a statement. NCIS Agent Kelly Garbo’s testimony on January 15, 2007, describes the methods agents use in interviewing witnesses and preparing statements: “Two or more agents will conduct an interview and later compile what they hear in the form of a single, typewritten statement, she said. The document is then given to the person interviewed, who is asked to initial each paragraph as having been read and then sign the report as a sworn official statement.”
This does not corroborate her testimony that she personally typed Shumate’s statement as she interviewed him. There is no audio or video record of the interrogation.
October 6, 2006: Nbcsandiego.com: Navy Corpsman Bacos’ court-martial. Bacos accepted a plea bargain in return for his guilty plea and for testifying against the other defendants. Bacos’ testimony is entirely unchallenged, with no questions or cross-examination.
Bacos testified that Sgt. Hutchins played the major role in the incident, and that he came up with the plan. Later in the trial Bacos states that Hutchins and Thomas called him over to a huddle, and Thomas advised a plan to get Saleh Gowad. Bacos says that “they” began working out what they could do. Magincalda, Thomas, Hutchins, and Pennington were working on the plan. They moved to a second position under the trees. When Hutchins told the rest of the men about the plan, the others just said, “I’m in.” Bacos says the agreement was to take Gowad from his house against his will. Bacos testifies that the agreement was sealed when squad members said, “I’m in, sir”. Others said, “Let’s do it.” Bacos says he was “not ordered” to take part. Thomas later testifies that he, Thomas, was ‘ordered’.
October 16, 2006: Article 32 hearing for Sgt. Hutchins.
October 17, 2006: Charges referred to court-martial for Jackson, Pennington, and Thomas.
In reference to his client, Pfc. Jodka, he states, “We were asking for evidence and being unilaterally denied by the convening authority.” (Lt. General James Mattis) Casas raises concerns over the fact that those who are under arrest and awaiting court proceedings in the military justice system are not entitled to post bail and remain free pending the outcome of judicial proceedings.
Former military prosecutor, Kevin Vienna, said that the right to bail “is often illusory.” He said that most people can’t afford the ten percent fee. Casas raises questions about high conviction rates in military justice and the political influence and undue command influence that can be brought to bear on military juries and court officials. Vienna says they’re not unique to military justice. He said they’re also high in civilian courts. Vienna adds that, like the military justice system, judges and court officials in the civilian system can also be the victims of political pressure.
Then he adds, “Do I think the system is fair …Yes.” Therein lies the mind-set of the military judicial system: Prosecute and get a high conviction rate!
October 26, 2006: Articles continue to steer public opinion.
1: “Pendleton Plead Deals Spur Legal Concerns: Experts Fear Truth Could Stay in Iraq,” reads the headline. “Some military court experts question whether legal expediency will keep the truth from the public and from justice being served,” Gary Solis said.
“Plea Agreements Eliminate the Uncertainties Inherent in a Jury trial.” In the Hamdania case, he said, “they might also allow the military to limit testimony alleging that failed Marine Corps leadership and training have led to moral lapses in the combat zone.” “Guilty Pleas Minimize Marine Corps Exposure to Public Criticism.” (The Prosecution’s purpose in dropping the death penalty: Under the UCMJ, 845 Article 45 (b), an accused may not make a plea of guilty to any offense for where the death penalty may be adjudged. This left the door open for the others to testify against Sgt. Hutchins, enabling the government to protect failed leadership, and appease Congress and Nouri al Maliki.)
2: “Encinitas Man Pleads Guilty in Hamdania Killing:” “He (Jodka) also acknowledged that he was among several of the men who fired at Awad, who had been placed in a makeshift hole…” Jodka, in a calm and measured voice, answered a series of questions from Jones (judge) describing the plot and each man’s agreement to take part in it…”
“I couldn’t see the man in the hole at the time we were firing, sir,” Jodka said.
“I only saw him stand up and run down the road to the north.”
All the others, in return for their plea bargains, testified Awad was in the hole, hands and feet bound. Yet he ran down the road?
(a) “Marine Testifies to Details of Hamdania Killing”
“Before they grabbed the man from his house, however, Hutchins gathered the men in a circle.
“Sergeant Hutchins then went around to each member of the squad and asked individually,” Jodka said in court. “If any person had an objection,” the plan would be dropped. “I agreed to that plan,” he said, “and I agreed to go forward without objection.”
“Unclear from the limited questioning and testimony Thursday was whether Jodka knew at the time that the man the squad shot wasn’t Gowad, the initial target. But, the judge told him, “It’s Irrelevant who that individual is.” [emphasis added]
Irrelevant? An innocent Marine was unjustly convicted and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for something that was considered by the U.S. government to be morally and legally “relevant” or he would not be there. The media reported for over a year before Sgt. Hutchins’ court-martial that the man who was killed was an innocent, handicapped, (retired?) Iraqi policeman and family man. All the while, the prosecution knew full well they could not even prove the identity of the deceased. NCIS claimed they presented a report of a “thorough” investigation to the prosecution. NCIS’ claim was false.
(b) Marine Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Iraqi, Linda Deutsch, AP.
At his hearing Jodka told the judge he knew his actions would fuel anti-war sentiment. “Anything like this would present an argument against the war.”
“The military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, interrupted him and said, “I’m not interested in political implications.” “He (Jodka) said he ran with others into the darkness, shooting at a figure they could barely see, and found out only later it was the wrong target.” Yet Bacos, at his court-martial (hearing), said Awad was bound and dragged from his home with a gag in his mouth, then placed in a hole by the side of the road and shot 10 times.”
(c) Heat is on Rest of Hamdania Defendants to Plead. Joseph Low, Magincalda’s attorney, said, “It was difficult for the men who took a plea deal because I know they didn’t want to do so, but were scared.”
Gary Solis, who teaches military law; “There’s not much stronger evidence than the testimony of an eyewitness participant,” Solis said, noting that the Jodka and Bacos plea agreements require that they testify truthfully or see their deals withdrawn.”
The “relevance” in that statement is the threat it implies. Then Solis says, “Their pleas mean the attorney now can’t defend on the facts … they have to raise some other defense, such as they thought they were shooting at a lawful target.” An insurgent is a lawful target!
November 6, 2006: 2nd Marine Pleads Guilty in Iraqi’s Death “The judge questioned (Lance Cpl.) Jackson and accepted the plea, which is made as part of a pretrial agreement with the government in exchange for lesser punishment.”
“Let there be no doubt about the reason for plea deals!” (See November 16, 18, 2006). Gowad, who was on the Battalion’s high-value target list…[emphasis added]”
November 8, 2006: Motion hearings for Cpl. Magincalda. ‘Marine Denied Bid to Get Out of Brig.’
November 10, 2006: Charges referred to general court-martial for Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins.
November 14, 2006: Cpl. Thomas’ Arraignment. ‘Hamdania Defendant Enters Not Guilty Plea.’
“Bacos, Jackson and Jodka all told military judges that each of the men agreed to take part in the kidnapping and each knew that the intention was to kill.”
They were sent there to “capture or kill” insurgents.
November 16, 2006: General Mattis, said he would not seek the death penalty for Sgt. Hutchins. Quincy, MA. attorney, Gerald Kirby said the plea bargaining does not indicate a strong case against Hutchins. “I have done a lot of trials, and there has to be a heck of a lot of holes in the prosecution’s case to do all of this.”
November 17, 2006: “Jackson Sentenced to 21 Months in Hamdania Killing.”
Judge, Lt. Col. Joseph Lisiecki had sentenced Jackson to 9 years and a dishonorable discharge, but “that punishment was set aside because of Jackson’s plea agreement with Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the convening authority over the case as head of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force.”
November 18, 2006: Plea Deals Pile Up for Accused Marine.
“Some observers of the military justice system find the developments mystifying.” Gary Solis said he was surprised by the number of plea agreements in this case. David Glazier, who teaches the law of war, said that with such a large number of defendants, prosecutors may be weighing who may be most at fault.
Solis said he’s confident there will be trials in the case. “A trial serves many purposes and one is to achieve justice and exact punishment for criminal misconduct”. “The accused are well represented. But who speaks for the dead man? Who represents society? That’s the purpose of the trial.”
Solis should have said “dead Insurgent.” The identity of the man was not proven. It could just as well be Gowad. Why is there more concern for a dead insurgent the squad was ordered to capture or kill within 48 hours, than for the lives of Marines?
November 18, 2006: Marine Corps May be Done Making Plea Deals in Hamdania Case
“Marine prosecutors will not comment on the case or their motivation for offering deals; however, the plea agreements reached thus far require that those men testify in court against their fellow platoon members, if called to do so.”
“…prosecutors presented a “charge sheet” laying out the government’s version of what happened.”
The government’s version? The version the government is not required to corroborate or prove?
November 21, 2006: “Admissions Coerced, Says the Defendant.” (Lance Cpl. Pennington) Pennington admitted he made two self-incriminating statements to NCIS agents but said he made them after feeling threatened by aggressive questioning by one of the agents and being denied a lawyer by another.
“(The agent) said that if I got a lawyer, he would not be able to help me..I felt that meant that I pretty much had to give them statements.”
Pennington said an NCIS agent also advised him that talking to a lawyer would be “the worst mistake” he could ever make and would hurt his chances of making a deal with prosecutors.
“Military judge, Lt. Col. Eugene Robinson will decide whether Pennington’s statements – and a series of his drawings – will be admissible as evidence.”
The military judge’ and NCIS’ testimony was acknowledged, but all of the accused’s statements concerning coercive interrogations were ignored throughout the proceedings. At one point Pennington “disputed a prosecutor’s assertion’s that he tried to strangle Awad with an ascot.” “No,” Pennington said, “he tried to gag Awad with it.”
Another fine example of NCIS’ ‘thorough’ investigatory practices.
December 2, 2006: Hutchins Arraignment Slated for Thursday
Military law expert, Gary Solis, said …”the chances of Hutchins pleading to a reduced offense, as four of the marines have done, are considered remote.”
Solis said Hutchins is the least likely to be able to negotiate a plea deal to a lesser offense.
“Given that four individuals have pleaded guilty and made statements pointing at him, he faces the strong possibility of conviction.”
Commanders taking the word of Iraqis, coerced interrogations, biased media coverage, zero presumption of innocence, unnecessary imprisonment, coerced plea deals forcing his men to testify “against” him in exchange for lesser sentences…all of this equals no chance for a fair or impartial trial.
December 7, 2006: Sgt. Hutchins Arraignment. Article: “Marine Arraigned in Iraqi Slaying case.”
“Aside from the plea issue, one prosecutor, Lt. Col. John Baker, modified the kidnapping charge against Hutchins to read “carrying away Awad” instead of “seizing and holding him”. Baker said the wording change reflects his belief that Hutchins played a more active role in the abduction. Shouldn’t prosecutor Lt. Col. Baker have been just as concerned with the role Lt. Phan played?
Lt. Phan was the Sergeant’s immediate commander. The mission was his responsibility, and that of his senior commanders in turn. Where was the Investigatory search for the truth that the prosecution tried to portray as its objective? The unit’s members believed that Gowad was planning to attack fellow Marines. Sgt. Hutchins and his squad saved lives. Where was the credit for that?
December 26, 2006: Mattis on the Marines: Pendleton Commander Upbeat About Morale, Progress in Iraq. On media coverage in Iraq; “the enemy is getting its message across because it has denied the western press access to the battlefield. The media are relying on Iraqi stringers who bring no degree of objectivity. The enemy story gets out unchallenged, furthering the enemy agenda.
Commanders in Iraq and the Pentagon relied on a story that was unverified and unchallenged.
January 11-12, 2007: Article 32 Investigation hearing for 2nd Lt. Phan.
January 12, 2007: Attorney Says Agents Made Up Assault Case.
Defense attorney David Sheldon alleged that NCIS agents fabricated portions of statements that led to charges against 2nd Lt. Phan. Lance Cpl. Faulkner testified that the original statement he signed was typed by NCIS agents who came to him days later and asked him to sign it. He was on guard duty and didn’t have time to go over it. Why was NCIS not questioned by the Court or by the convening authority? NCIS agent Kelly Garbo testified they never put falsehoods in official statements provided to prosecutors. What is her proof of that statement? She doesn’t tape interrogations. She then said she’d never read her NCIS manual.
That, with assertions of fabricated statements should have been enough to warrant appointment of special counsel to investigate NCIS’ policies.
January 15, 2007: NCIS Investigative Methods Come Under Fire Over Prosecution of Marine Lieutenant.
Agent Garbo “acknowledged” that agents don’t audiotape or videotape their investigations or interrogations. The GAO report on NCIS says, NCIS, DCIS, and FBI policies “permit” audio or video recordings of witness or suspect interviews in significant or controversial cases”.
It’s incomprehensible that agents wouldn’t find the Hamdania case significant and controversial. With worldwide attention, NCIS had a moral and legal duty to assure the accused of their Constitutional right to properly defend themselves.
During her testimony Garbo described the methods agents use in interviewing witnesses and preparing statements : Two or more agents will conduct an interview and “later” compile what they hear in the form of a single, typewritten statement. The statement is then given to the person interviewed, who is asked to initial each paragraph as having been “read” and then sign the report as a sworn official statement.
NCIS agents are not infallible. They should not be trusted to “compile” statements “later.”
How much later? Proof of a witness’ statement is important enough to have the witness or suspect write, in his own hand, his own statements rather than to “later” give him a “typewritten” statement, that could be easily changed…“later.”
Note :“The Lance corporal who testified said agents brought his statement to him while he was on guard duty in Iraq several days after he was interviewed. He said he had little time to read the document, so he asked if it reflected what he said but did not fully review it. He testified that when the agents told him it accurately described what he had told them, he signed it.”
January 18, 2007: Marine Pleads Guilty to Murder in Killing of Retired Iraqi Police Officer
(Cpl.) “Thomas’ pleas came as a result of an agreement with prosecutors and the Convening Authority, Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis.
“During his daylong court-martial, Thomas told the judge, Lt. Col. Tracy A. Daly, that neither he nor any other member of the squad had any information that Awad had ties to insurgents…”
When Judge Meeks denied the defense’ testimony and evidence concerning Awad, he used the excuse that information on Awad was classified.
Tired yet? As you can see by the above timeline, the railroad job was quite tidy. However, it gets much worse. In Part 2, I’ll continue the sequence of events that kept the cover-up going. Stay tuned.
Here is the link to the second part in this continuing series: EXCLUSIVE: Pendleton 8 Exposed, Part 2
Kit Lange is an Air Force veteran and military writer who specializes in investigating murder cases stemming from actions in combat. Her work was used as evidence in the Lt. Ilario Pantano case, and has been quoted extensively in other news publications for other cases. In 2005, she co-wrote a 10-part series disproving war crime allegations against an elite Army unit; her blog, EuphoricReality.com, was named as one of the top 10 milblogs of the year. She is also the National Web Coordinator for Gathering of Eagles, a nationally-recognized troop support organization. Kit holds a degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology from Spartan College of Aeronautics, and is currently working on a second degree in Aviation Technology Management. She resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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