Marine gets no more prison time

The sergeant, con­victed again in the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civil­ian, had served seven years.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Tony Perry tony.perry@latimes.com Twit­ter: @LATsandiego

CAMP PENDLE­TON — A Marine jury Thurs­day sen­tenced a Marine sergeant to a bad-con­duct dis­charge but no ad­di­tional prison time for killing an un­armed Iraqi civil­ian in 2006.

Pros­e­cu­tors had asked jurors at the re­trial of Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins to sen­tence him to a dis­hon­or­able dis­charge and ad­di­tional prison time.

Hutchins, 31, had served more than seven years of an 11-year sen­tence be­fore his 2007 con­vic­tion was over­turned and the case sent back for re­trial.

Hutchins’ wife, Reyna, burst into tears of re­lief at the sen­tenc­ing by the six-Marine jury. The jury de­cided that time served be­hind bars was suf­fi­cient.

The jury took less than two hours to reach its sen­tenc­ing de­ci­sion. The day’s ses­sion in­cluded emo­tional tes­ti­mony by Hutchins’ fa­ther, mother, wife and their 10-year-old daugh­ter ask­ing for le­niency.

When his daugh­ter tes­ti­fied, Hutchins wept openly and placed his head on the de­fense ta­ble. Jurors lis­tened in­tently.

Tear­fully, Kylie Hutchins talked about miss­ing her fa­ther des­per­ately when he was in prison and then the brig, and be­ing over­joyed when he re­turned home af­ter the ap­peals court over­turned his con­vic­tion.

The brig at Mi­ra­mar Marine Corps Air Sta­tion, she said, “was this big house and it was very sad.”

With her fa­ther home, she said, “we’re fi­nally a whole fam­ily and not a miss­ing puz­zle part.”

Hutchins, his wife, and their three chil­dren live at Camp Pendle­ton, where he has been as­signed since be­ing re­leased in 2013 to await re­trial.

The lead pros­e­cu­tor, Maj. Adam Work­man, told jurors that what Hutchins did rep­re­sented a “whole­sale aban­don­ment of moral prow­ess.”

“When we aban­don that moral au­thor­ity, we are no bet­ter than our en­emy,” Work­man said.

The max­i­mum ad­di­tional time be­hind bars would have been a lit­tle less than four years given the time he had spent at Ft. Leav­en­worth, Kan., prison and the Mi­ra­mar brig.

On Wed­nes­day, the jury — three of­fi­cers and three se­nior en­listed per­son­nel — found Hutchins guilty of the same charge that he was con­victed of in 2007: un­premed­i­tated mur­der in the shoot­ing death of an un­armed civil­ian who was dragged from his home, bound and rid­dled with bul- lets. The killing oc­curred in Ha­mandiya, west of Bagh­dad.

Hutchins’ at­tor­ney, Christo­pher Oprison, had ar­gued to jurors that Hutchins and other mem­bers of the so-called Pendle­ton 8 were framed by the Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice.

In pre­trial mo­tions, he said Hutchins could not get a fair trial be­cause of com­ments made by Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus.

Although dis­ap­pointed by the guilty ver­dict, Oprison said late Thurs­day that he was pleased that the same jury de­cided to sen­tence his client to “time served.”

“He’s go­ing home,” Oprison told re­porters. “We wanted him home for Fa­ther’s Day, and now he is.”

Hutchins’ 2007 con­vic­tion was set aside twice by an ap­pel­late court, and Wed­nes­day’s guilty ver­dict came af­ter a re­trial.

In a 90-minute unsworn pre­sen­ta­tion to the jury Thurs­day, Hutchins talked of the bru­tal­iz­ing ef­fect of the war in Iraq in 2006.

“I was a dif­fer­ent man at this lo­ca­tion, at this time, af­ter what I had seen,” he said. “I had ice in my veins.”

In 2007, he was sen­tenced to 15 years in prison, later re­duced to 11 years.

Ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, Hutchins, as squad leader, de­vised a plan to cap­ture a sus­pected in­sur­gent and kill him as an ex­am­ple to other Iraqis not to at­tack Amer­i­cans. When they could not find him, pros­e­cu­tors said, they went next door and cap­tured a 52-year-old re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer on April 26, 2006.

Although dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine cause and ef­fect, at­tacks against U.S. troops in Ha­mandiya de­clined af­ter the killing, lead­ing some Marines to be­lieve the in­ci­dent, while bru­tal and illegal, saved Amer­i­can lives.

Dur­ing Hutchins’ re­trial, six for­mer squad mem­bers re­fused to tes­tify against him, cit­ing their 5th Amend­ment right against self-incrimination.

The six signed af­fi­davits dis­avow­ing com­ments made dur­ing their courts-mar­tial, say­ing they were co­erced by pros­e­cu­tors and the Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice.

A sev­enth squad mem­ber tes­ti­fied at the re­trial, telling jurors that af­ter the Iraqi was killed, Hutchins told the squad, “Gents, con­grat­u­la­tions, we just got away with mur­der.”

Of eight squad mem­bers con­victed in the killing, Hutchins re­ceived the long­est sen­tence. None of the oth­ers served more than 18 months in the brig.

The re­trial jury’s ver­dict and sen­tence will be re­viewed by Lt. Gen. Ken­neth McKen­zie Jr., com­man­der of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cen­tral Com­mand.

Adam Lau As­so­ci­ated Press

SGT. LAWRENCE HUTCHINS in 2010. “I had ice in my veins” at the time of the killing, he told the jury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.