Accused Hamdania Marine wants to head straight to trial
North County Times ^ | 16 AUG 2006 | TERI FIGUEROA

Attorneys for Pfc. John Jodka III today told Marine Corps officials that Jodka wants to waive the pretrial hearing known as an Article 32 and head straight to trial.

San Diego-based attorney Joseph Casas said he is waiving the hearing because it is "a meaningless exercise because military prosecutors have refused to grant his attorneys access to important evidence that supports his claim of innocence."

"We have no choice," Casas said Wednesday morning. "The government has put us in a position where we have to go to trial."

A Marine Corps spokesman confirmed that authorities had received the paperwork.

"The request has been received, but no decision has been made," said Lt. Col. Sean Gibson.

Casas said that if authorities do no resist Jodka's request, the case could go to trial by late October.

Pointing to frustrations with what he said have been repeated denials by the government to turn over evidence, Casas said he and co-counsel Jane Siegel had been considering the move for weeks. He also said his client is on board with the decision. The two attorneys were hired by Jodka's family and are defending him along with an attorney appointed by the Marine Corps.

"Jodka is excited to go to trial," Casas said. "He's been confined for 77 days now. He wants to begin the process of exonerating him."

Casas said the prosecution has repeatedly refused requests for intelligence reports on the slain man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad.

"They've deemed so much information irrelevant, unilaterally irrelevant," Casas said.

The eight men ---- seven Marines and one Navy corpsman ---- are charged with kidnapping and killing Awad in the Iraqi village of Hamdania on April 26. According to the charges, the men are alleged to have taken Awad, 52, from his home. They are said to have then bound his hands and feet, placed him into a hole and shot him repeatedly, then staged the scene to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.

In addition to Jodka, 20, an Encinitas native, the accused are Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, Hospitalman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Lance Cpls. Tyler A. Jackson, Robert B. Pennington, and Jerry Shumate Jr.

The men, all members of Kilo Company, within the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, are awaiting hearings to determine if the charges against them will move forward.

The case is separate from another incident involving a different group of Camp Pendleton Marines being investigated for the deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last November. That case remains under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

On Monday, Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis assumed command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and will be the convening authority under the military justice system for the Hamdania case. The six other Marines and Navy corpsman charged in that case and housed in the base brig and have Article 32 hearings scheduled for September and October.

Those hearings are the equivalent of a civilian court pre-trial hearing to determine if criminal charges lodged against a defendant should move forward to trial.

Contact staff writer Teri Figueroa at (760) 631-6624 or