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thedrifter
06-23-06, 06:59 AM
Friday, June 23, 2006

By DEBERA CARLTON HARRELL AND BRAD WONG
P-I REPORTERS

Even before he became a Marine at age 18, Bobby Pennington was known as a smart, motivated kid who understood discipline and self-sacrifice.

But now, his lawyer says, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington is living in a 6- by 9-foot cell at Camp Pendleton, Calif., one of seven Marines and one sailor facing charges of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian in April.

If Pennington, 21, of Mukilteo, Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Jr., 20, of Matlock, and six other members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment are found guilty of premeditated murder, they could get the death penalty.

David Brahms, a Carlsbad, Calif., lawyer representing Pennington, expressed incredulity at the allegations. Brahms, a Harvard-educated, retired Marine general, said Pennington was a disciplined young man who wanted to serve his country, making three combat tours by age 21.

"This kid is an extraordinary young man who finds himself in the most miserable of circumstances," Brahms said by phone. "He has no history of bad behavior. I'd be damned proud to have him as a son."

Brahms said Pennington is "a bright kid who is motivated to serve, rather than go to the next keg party." He said Pennington had his arms and legs shackled (since his arrest last month) until last Friday, when "clearer heads prevailed and that onerous condition was removed."

Jack Kniseley, assistant principal at Mukilteo's Kamiak High School, said "Bobby" Pennington attended the Running Start program and graduated from Kamiak in 2002.

"I recognized his face in the school yearbook, but I didn't really know him," Kniseley said. "He wasn't a behavior problem or I'd have dealt with him.

"If he'd had discipline problems, I'd have known him."

It is unclear what, or when, the next step will be, although an Article 32 hearing is likely. The preliminary hearing process is used to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding.

Terry Pennington, 56, of Mukilteo denied the charges against his son.

"They've been accused of something that did not happen," Pennington told The Herald of Everett. He characterized the charge as an "overreaction."

"The fact my son is involved in this has devastated us, but we're willing to fight," Pennington said.

In Matlock, which is in Mason County, Shumate's family expressed similar sentiments Thursday, saying the truth will come out.

"We know he is innocent. We know that the lawyers will be able to tell his side of the story and that he will come out of this clean," said sister Amanda Shumate, 22.

"They're all good kids. It's tough they got tangled up in this," said Jerry Shumate Sr., 41.

"We'll find out the truth in the end."

Shumate, 20, left for Iraq in January after joining the Marine Corps in February 2005.

The muscular, blue-eyed man with blond hair enlisted in the Marines, his family said, to be a hero and to better himself. His grandfather also served as a Marine.

As a student at Mary M. Knight High School in Elma, he enjoyed playing football and the teamwork involved.

"He said he wants to go back to his platoon and to take care of his buddies," his sister, Amanda, said.

P-I reporter Debera Carlton Harrell can be reached at 206-448-8326 or deberaharrell@seattlepi.com.

Ellie