Manteca native and U.S. Marine Corp. Marshall Magincalda, 23, was in court Wednesday in Camp Pendleton for an arraignment where he pled not guilty to charges that he helped kill an Iraqi civilian.
His civilian defense attorney, Joseph Low in Long Beach, could not be reached for comment.
But Low has long argued Magincalda’s innocence and that prosecutors have little evidence to prove their case.
Magincalda, along with three Marines at Camp Pendleton, will now face courts-martial for the kidnapping and slaying of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad on April 26 in the town of Hamdania, Iraq, the Marine Corps said.
Magincalda, along with other accused Marines Pfc. John J. Jodka III, 20, and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate, 21, are the first of eight to go to trial.
Some of the servicemen, including Magincalda, are accused of stealing an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel and placing them in the hole with Awad’s body, apparently to make it look like Awad was an insurgent planting a bomb.
Magincalda is suspected of binding Awad’s feet and kidnapping him. But a later autopsy showed no evidence that Awad’s feet were bound. A U.S. Navy corpsman is accused of firing the AK-47 in the air and Magincalda of placing the expended shell casings by Awad’s body.
Magincalda’s trial date is set for Feb. 1, and Jodka’s for March 5. Military officials on Aug. 4 denied a request that Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, 22, of Tracy, be allowed to leave the brig at Camp Pendleton.
Jackson has been in the brig — going from maximum to medium security — since May 12.
Jackson’s defense attorney said that recent rumors the Marine officials are concerned the men might flee if released from the brig are unfounded.
“That’s their opinion,” said Thomas Watt, Jackson’s attorney. “I totally disagree.”
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general in the Magincalda case, said he would not seek the death penalty for Magincalda, Jodka and Shumate.
Mattis ruled that Shumate should stand trial on an assault charge stemming from a separate alleged incident involving other Iraqis that took place in Hamdania on April 10.
Jackson will face a preliminary hearing Oct. 18, where the military will decide if it has enough evidence to try Jackson.
All eight have been in the Camp Pendleton brig since May.
Investigators say troops bound his feet, dragged Awad from his home and shot him to death in a roadside hole. But the men say Awad was attempting to plant a roadside bomb. Prosecutors say they have allegedly incriminating statements that troops made to investigators.
But defense attorneys for the men have questioned the validity of the statements, and argue that investigators used heavy-handed techniques.
The Marine Corps dropped some charges against the three men, including an assault charge against Magincalda and Shumate. The Marines dismissed charges against Jodka for making a false official statement, larceny and wrongfully endeavoring to impede an investigation.
Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, at least 14 members of the U.S. military have been convicted in connection with the deaths of Iraqis. Two received sentences of up to life in prison, while most others were given little or no jail time.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
• To contact reporter Phil Hayworth, call 830-4221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.