The Fort Lewis court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada for disobeying an order to go to Iraq is something of a flip side to the court-martial set to begin tomorrow in Camp Pendleton for a Mukilteo Marine who says he helped murder an Iraqi citizen in April because he was following orders. However, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, according to the latest reports, may enter a negotiated guilty plea instead. Four others including Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. from the Shelton area have already pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Altogether, seven Marines and a Navy sailor were charged with dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, from his home and then making it appear he'd been killed while planting a bomb. Another Marine, Cpl. Trent Thomas of St. Louis, has withdrawn his earlier guilty plea. Though he confessed to a role in the shooting, Thomas still insists he was following a lawful order issued by his sergeant.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Pennington pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping. The North County Times (San Diego area) reports:
Pennington said that the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III, led the plot and he acknowledged he helped finalize the plan and then shared it with the other platoon members. ...When they couldn't locate their intended target, Pennington said, the plan was to grab one of Gowad's brothers, of whom he said they also suspected of taking part in roadside bombings and other attacks. "It would affect the insurgency and send a message," he said. "We felt that just catching them would be an exercise in futility ---- they would just be released a few days later." After finding none of those men, Pennington said a team from the squad took Awad from his home immediately next door to Gowad's residence. Awad was then forcibly marched about 1,000 yards away and shot multiple times. When the shooting ended, Pennington said each man agreed to lie and stick to a story that Awad was caught in the act of digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb.