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Three Camp Pendleton based Marines accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian will not face preliminary hearings and will instead go straight to trial, military officials announced today.

Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpls. Robert B. Pennington and Tyler A. Jackson all requested to waive their rights to an Article 32 Investigation, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury hearing. Their request was granted by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding officer of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Dates have not yet been set for their courts-martial proceedings.

Mattis, who has discretion under military law, also dismissed charges of assault and obstructing an investigation pending against each of the men.

Thomas, Pennington, Jackson, four other Marines and a Navy Medic were all charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other crimes in connection with the April shooting death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad.

Government prosecutors allege that the accused abducted Awad from his home, bound his hands and feet and shot him to death. The troops then used a stolen shovel and shell casings from the stolen rifle to make it appear as if Awad was an insurgent caught in the act of planting a roadside bomb, authorities allege.

Thomas will also face an assault charge in an unrelated attack on an Iraqi civilian that is alleged to have occurred days before Awad’s death.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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