CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A Marine private who pleaded guilty to reduced
charges in the killing of an innocent Iraqi civilian was sentenced Wednesday to
18 months in custody.
"You have a very fortuitous pretrial
agreement," the judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, told Pfc. John J. Jodka III.
Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka is seen in this undated photo
released by the Jodka family. Jodka was part of a squad of seven Marines
and a Navy corpsman accused of kidnapping a man in the town of Hamdania,
west of Baghdad, taking him to a roadside hole and shooting him, then
trying to cover up the killing. Jodka told a military court at his
sentencing Wednesday Nov. 15, 2006 that he was 'very truly sorry' for his
role in the killing of an Iraqi civilian last spring. Jodka, 20, pleaded
guilty Oct. 27 to assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice and agreed to
testify. In exchange, prosecutors dropped other charges including murder.
Jodka III was part of a squad of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of
kidnapping 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the town of Hamdania, taking him
to a roadside hole, shooting him and then trying to cover up the incident.
The military judge wanted to hand down a five-year punishment, but was bound
by the terms of the plea deal. Prosecutors had sought 11 years.
As part of a plea deal, Jodka pleaded guilty Oct. 27 to charges of assault
and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and prosecutors dropped other charges
including murder and kidnapping. The deal required Jodka to testify. The judge
said that if Jodka cooperates, he can receive a general discharge.
"I decided to plead guilty because in the end it was the right thing to do,"
Jodka said. "I had to weigh in myself the need for truth as opposed to the
loyalty to the squad I had bonded with in Iraq."
The judge ruled after reviewing evidence including a video, made by the squad
two days after the killing, in which the 20-year-old private participated in
profane jokes about killing more people and car bombers.
The video showed Jodka and others atop a personnel carrier, possibly at dawn.
It is not clear who is speaking at specific times.