One of the shooters' punishment: he loses his job.
That's what happens if you are a Marine, and your victim is an Iraqi.
Charged with killing an Iraqi civilian, Marine Trent Thomas backed out of a plea agreement calling for a 12-year sentence to face a court-martial that could have put him in prison for life. He said Friday that it wasn't a gamble, but a leap of faith.
"God can do anything but fail," the 25-year-old from Madison, Ill., said shortly after a jury decided against giving him any prison time for kidnapping and conspiring to murder. "It didn't matter whether I took the 12-year deal or went to court. God's willing for me to get out."
Thomas, who spent 14 months in the brig awaiting trial, was reduced in rank from corporal to private and given a bad-conduct discharge. He could have received life in prison without parole for the crimes he was convicted of Wednesday, and one of the counts he was acquitted of, aggravated murder, carried a mandatory life sentence.
A jury of three officers and six enlisted Marines deliberated for less than an hour Friday before returning its decision.
Prosecutors had recommended Thomas be sentenced to 15 years in prison with a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and a fine for his role in the April 2006 killing of the retired Iraqi policeman in the village of Hamdania.
Thomas was among seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of snatching 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his house, marching him to a nearby ditch and shooting him after they botched an attempt to capture a suspected insurgent.
Prosecutors said squad members tried to cover up the killing by planting a shovel and AK-47 by Awad's body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a bomb.
"I believe we did what we needed to do to save Marines' lives," Thomas said outside court, while declining to discuss the details of what happened that night. "I think anybody who understands what war is or what combat is understands."
Thomas' attorneys argued that their client was only following orders from his squad leader and asked that he be returned to active duty.
"We failed him as a Marine Corps, because under good leadership, this Marine would not be here today," Maj. Haytham Faraj told the court. "Consider where the responsibility lies."
Thomas had agreed in January to plead guilty in the case, but withdrew the guilty pleas on the eve of sentencing in February. His attorney, Victor Kelley, said that pretrial agreement had called for 12 years in prison.
Words don't convey how disgusted I am.