- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — The wife of a Marine convicted of kidnapping and conspiring to murder an Iraqi man last year wept at her husband’s sentencing hearing yesterday as she told the military jury that she wanted him out of the brig.

“I would like him to come home,” said Erica Thomas.

Cpl. Trent Thomas, a 25-year-old father of two, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, even after the jury acquitted him of the most serious charge of premeditated murder on Wednesday. He was also acquitted of making a false official statement, housebreaking and larceny.

Prosecutors say Thomas and other members of his squad kidnapped an Iraqi man from his home in Hamdania and killed him after they failed to find a suspected insurgent in April 2006.

The murder charge carried a minimum life sentence; there is no minimum sentence for conspiracy and kidnapping.

“Now that the mandatory minimum of life is off the table, the panel has a great deal of flexibility and I think they will do what is appropriate,” said Victor Kelley, Thomas‘ attorney, on Wednesday.

Thomas‘ attorneys argued at trial that their client was only following orders from his squad leader and that his judgment was impaired from repeated bomb blasts during three tours in Iraq.

Thomas, of Madison, Ill., was among seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of killing the civilian, who they found asleep in his home. Squad members tried to cover up the killing by planting a shovel and AK-47 by his body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb, the charges claim.

Thomas was the senior corporal in the squad, a fire team leader and the first to take his case to trial. Four other Marines and the sailor pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony, each receiving between one and eight years in the brig. Two of the Marines face trial.

Thomas agreed in January to plead guilty to unpremeditated murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other charges. He stunned the court by withdrawing his guilty plea on the eve of sentencing in February.

The final terms of Thomas‘ punishment will be subject to review by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case.

Courts-martial were scheduled for the two Marines remaining in the case — Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda today and squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III next week.

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