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Thursday, October 23

2 Marines charged in death of Iraqi POW

By Christian Lowe | Marine Corps Times

Two Marines have been charged in the death of a POW who was a high-ranking Iraqi Baath party official captured with a weapon that belonged to the Army maintenance company ambushed outside Nasiriyah, Iraq, in March, Marine officials said.

Maj. Clark Paulus, of Buckingham, Pa., and Lance Cpl. Christian Hernandez, of Queens, N.Y., were charged Oct. 17 with negligent homicide in the death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab, who was found dead June 6 in his holding cell.Paulus, the prison camp commander, and Hernandez are among eight Marines charged with various crimes stemming from alleged incidents of prisoner abuse at the camp outside Nasiriyah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad. All eight are with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, a Marine Corps Reserve infantry unit based in Worcester, Mass.

U.S. forces transported Hatab days earlier to the camp, a small facility located near a larger Army-run prisoner of war camp. When he was captured, he was carrying a U.S.-made weapon that was traced to the convoy in which six soldiers, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were captured and 11 others killed, said Lt. Col. Mark Pullin, deputy staff judge advocate for I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Pullin wouldn't say what kind of weapon or which soldier had been assigned the weapon.

An autopsy found that Hatab died of asphyxiation/strangulation, Pullin said. One or more of the Marines grabbed Hatab by his neck or throat, but any injuries they may have caused were not intentional, Pullin said.

``The evidence did not indicate that they deliberately set out to kill somebody,'' Pullin said.

Paulus is charged with two counts of dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, making a false official statement, assault and negligent homicide. Hernandez faces charges of dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, three counts of assault and negligent homicide.

The six other Marines charged are:

- Maj. William D. Vickers of Syracuse, N.Y., charged with dereliction of duty.

- Sgt. Albert R. Rodriquez Martinez of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, charged with making a false official statement and two counts of assault.

- Sgt. Gary P. Pittman of Flushing, N.Y., charged with two counts of dereliction of duty and five counts of assault.

- Lance Cpl. Konstantin Mikhlop of Massapequa, N.Y., charged with making a false official statement and two counts of assault.

- Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Rodney of Queens, N.Y., charged with assault.

- Lance Cpl. William S. Roy of Troy, N.Y., charged with two counts of dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and five counts of assault.

Military documents obtained by Marine Corps Times detailing the charges against Roy allege that he grabbed Hatab by the neck and face and also kicked and punched Hatab and other prisoners. Roy is a reservist who in civilian life is a sheriff's deputy and county jail guard.

Marine officials would not provide details of the charges against the other Marines.

Roy's attorney, Donald Rehkopf, said his client ``emphatically denies'' the accusations. Further, the Marines were ill-prepared to run a prison camp, a job normally handled by the Army, he argued.

``None of these guys were trained to deal with enemy prisoners or detainees,'' Rehkopf said.

Five of the Marines charged will face Article 32 evidentiary hearings to determine whether they should face court-martial. Rodriguez Martinez, Rodney and Mikhlop will face special courts-martial, Pullin said.