Skip to comments.Hamdania defendants' Web sites drawing attention - Pendleton 8
Posted on 07/10/2006 10:54:35 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Seven Web sites set up by friends and families of eight Camp Pendleton troops accused of kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi civilian are getting thousands of page hits ---- and raising money for their defense.
The supporters also are planning auctions and hosting barbecues in their attempts to raise money to pay the bills of the civilian attorneys the men have hired, bills that are expected to be as much as $100,000 or more per man.
Seven Marines and one sailor are charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and related offenses in the April 26 death of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad. They could face the death penalty if convicted.
The accused men, members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's Kilo Company, have not had an opportunity to enter pleas; that stage of the proceedings has not been set.
Family members maintain the men are innocent and are using the Internet to rally support for them.
Terri Jackson, mother of defendant Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, said Thursday that she put up her Web site "because I wanted people to know that Tyler was innocent and he was a good guy.
"I've been hearing that people wanted to write to him, so I wanted there to be a way for people to do that," she said, adding that she prints out the comments and sends or takes them to her son, who she visits every weekend.
Seeing those notes, she said, is "a very uplifting thing for him."
"I sent him a stack of 40 (notes) and said, 'Here's some good reading for you,' " Terri Jackson said. "He was just awe-struck."
The other defendants are Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Hospitalman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Cpls. Marshall L. Magincalda and Trent T. Thomas, Lance Cpls. Robert B. Pennington, Jerry E. Shumate Jr., and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Pfc. John Jodka III.
Each man is accused of playing a role in allegedly taking Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home in the Iraqi village of Hamdania west of Baghdad, forcing him into a hole, binding his hands and feet and shooting him, according to documents that Marine prosecutors filed when the men were charged on June 21.
According to the prosecution's account, five members of the squad fired bullets into Awad. Three others staged the scene to make it appear the man was an insurgent, including placing a shovel and assault rifle next to the body.
They also allegedly used the rifle to shoot bullets into the air, collected the shell casings and placed them next to the body along with the rifle, which had fingerprints wiped clean, according to the prosecution.
The military has appointed defense attorneys for each of the men, and each has hired civilian attorneys to represent them.
Paying the attorneys
Deanna Pennington of Tracy ---- Robert Pennington's mother ---- said she anticipates the legal fees to pay her son's civilian attorney will top $100,000, an amount she said the other families also anticipate they will need.
Her Web site has brought in about $16,000, she said.
"Part of me feels guilty for taking the money," she said in a telephone interview Thursday from a friend's home in Oceanside, "but it is not about me, it's about Rob and Rob's life. And when I think about that, I am a real momma bear."
Jodka's father, John Jodka Jr. of Encinitas, also anticipates a large bill.
"You can buy a lot of Mercedes for it, let's put it that way," he said. "There's been a wide range of people sending whatever they can. People from all over the country. It's been very gratifying."
The father of one of the accused young men ---- all are in the enlisted ranks and range in age from 20 to 24 ---- said he is using his home to raise money.
"We refinanced our house," said Magincalda's father, whose first name also is Marshall. "We are selling off our property" in Northern California.
Barbecues and auctions
Jenny Keesey, a friend of the Shumate family, also has established an Internet site to help the parents pay their son's legal fees, raising about $8,000 thus far, she said.
She is heading up fundraisers and hosting a barbecue today in the family's tiny hometown of Matlock, Wash., which boasts a population of about 300. A car wash and auction are in the works.
A Web site for Hutchins is on the way, his fiancee, Reyna Griffin, said Friday.
Griffin, who just returned to the East Coast after her first trip to visit Hutchins since he was returned from Iraq by the Marine Corps and jailed in mid-May, also is planning silent auctions in the Massachusetts area where the two live.
Besides the legal bills, Griffin, 22, said the expense of coming to California and Hutchins' collect calls add up quickly. The calls alone have run up a $500 tab, she said.
Magincalda's father said in a telephone interview from his home in Manteca on Thursday that just accepting a collect call from his son costs about $20, an amount that does not include charges for the length of the conversation.
Other Web sites
Other supporters have set up a handful of sites so that donors can give to a fund that will stake the fundraising efforts set up by United American Patriots, based in Greensboro, N.C.
Through its Web address ---- www.warrior-fund.org ---- and the checks mailed in, the group has raised more than $3,100 for the defendants, said the United American Patriots founder and president, Bill Donahue.
"The young Marines and sailor, with their paychecks, they'd have to live 100 years to pay those bills," said Donahue, a retired Marine major. "I've been in touch with four families and the stories they tell me make me sick in my boots, taking out second mortgages and so forth."
Under the system, families of the defendants can apply to Donahue's group and send in their legal bills to help defray the costs, Donahue said. The funds are overseen by a certified public accountant and the group has registered as a nonprofit organization.
Donors, Donahue said, have sent in amounts from $5 to $500, through both the mail and the Web site. The goal, he said, is to raise $2 million and to help out any other U.S. military members accused of wrongdoing in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Aside from the fundraising, the Web sites are getting plenty of hits. Jodka Jr. said his Web site has gotten about 10,000 hits in the few weeks it's been up.
Jackson's mother, Terri, said her Web site gets at least 100 hits (a term for page views) a day ---- and has tallied more than 2,500 visitors since she set it up about two weeks ago.
She declined to say how much money the site had raised, but noted that "there's more in there today than yesterday.
"We are not really sure how we are going to pay for them (the attorneys)," Jackson said. "It's a lot of money to come up with."
The Hamdania case has grabbed headlines coast to coast, and some family members and attorneys of the accused men have made appearances on national TV or radio programs to highlight their sons' cases.
Pennington said she notices a spike in Web site visits after such appearances by her husband.
Family members said the e-mails they have received offer words of support that Pennington's mother termed "incredible" and Jodka's father called "very, very heartwarming."
Corpsman Melson Bacos: www.patriotdefensefund.com
Tyler Jackson: www.fightingfortyler.com
John Jodka III: www.innocentmarine.com
Cpl. Marshall Magincalda: www.defendourmarine.com
Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington: www.defendrob.com
Lance Cpl.Jerry Shumate Jr.: www.friendsofjerry.blogspot.com
Cpl. Trent Thomas: www.defensefundformyhero.com
Other site supporting the men:
Until the verdict is read..
Thanks for posting the links!