A Marine who said he never fired a shot in the kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi man has been sentenced to eight years in military prison — the longest sentence yet in the case.Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, 22, also was reduced in rank and given a dishonorable discharge during the sentencing hearing Saturday at the Camp Pendleton Marine base.
Squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III of Plymouth, Mass., is awaiting trial on murder and other charges.
Pennington was part of an eight-member squad accused of kidnapping and killing Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, last April in the Iraqi town of Hamdania. Investigators said the Marines dragged Awad from his home, shot him, and then planted an AK-47 and a shovel by his body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb.
Pennington, the squad’s radio operator, testified at his court-martial that he did not shoot Awad but said he helped force the man into a roadside hole and held his hand over his mouth.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Pennington’s mother, Deanna Pennington, said after the sentencing. “Bobby died in Fallujah. I want to bring him back.”
The Marine from Mukilteo, Wash., pleaded guilty Tuesday to kidnapping and conspiracy. Murder, larceny and housebreaking charges will be dismissed if he completes terms of a plea bargain requiring him to testify for the government and remain on good behavior.
Pennington was the sixth member of the squad to plead guilty in the case, though one of those troops withdrew his plea ahead of his sentencing.
He was sentenced to a total of 14 years — but the military judge suspended six years and gave him credit for more than a year he has already served.
The sentence will be automatically reviewed by a military appeals court. Pennington’s civilian attorney, David Brahms, said he will try to have the sentence commuted.
Pennington earlier in the week testified that he and his fellow Marines were sick of suspected insurgents slipping through the justice system. He said Hutchins fired “about three” bullets into Awad’s head. Hutchins’ lawyer has said he does not think Hutchins did anything wrong.