Marine denies murder charge

By The Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A Marine pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges on Tuesday but denied murdering the Iraqi civilian he and seven other servicemen are accused of killing last April.

Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, of Mukilteo, Wash., entered the guilty pleas as part of a pretrial agreement in his court-martial, which began Tuesday.

The serviceman pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, larceny and housebreaking.

Pennington, 22, and seven others are accused of dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home in Hamdania last April and shooting him.

The court-martial continued Tuesday with the judge addressing the guilty pleas. It was not immediately clear how Pennington’s not-guilty pleas would be handled.

Pennington faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, although a sentencing cap could be part of the pretrial agreement.

According to prosecutors and earlier testimony from the others charged, the squad was looking for a suspected insurgent but couldn’t find him, so they kidnapped Awad instead. Investigators believe they tried to cover up the killing by planting an AK-47 and a shovel by Awad’s body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb.

Three of the Marines and the sailor have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to less than two years in prison but were required to testify about the killing.

The Marine Corps has refiled seven charges against another Marine, including murder, after he withdrew his guilty plea last week.