A Camp Pendleton-based Marine was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison for his role in the shooting death of an Iraqi man in April.

Pfc. John Jodka III, an Encinitas native who was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice last month, offered his apologies in court yesterday.

Here’s how the North County Times reported Jodka’s testimony:

“First and foremost, I offer a sincere apology to the Awad family for the suffering my actions in Iraq caused them,” Jodka said. He also apologized to his family and “to the Marine Corps whose highest ideals I failed to uphold.”

Under questioning from Jane Siegel, one of his two civilian defense attorneys, Jodka said he “agonized” for months before deciding to admit wrongdoing in the April 26 incident that occurred in Hamdania, Iraq.

“I decided to plead guilty because in the end it was the right thing to do,” Jodka told the court in a strong and unhalting voice. “The most difficult part for me … was my integrity and the need for truth as opposed to loyalty to my squad.”

Jodka, along with six other Marines and a Navy medic, was initially charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdaniya, a small village west of Baghdad. Jodka pleaded guilty after reaching an arrangement with government prosecutors in which he agreed to testify against his squad mates in exchange for a reduction in charges.

Government prosecutors claim the Marines and Navy medic 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 a stolen rifle to make it appear as if Awad was an insurgent caught in the act of planting a roadside bomb, authorities allege.

Jodka admitted to firing at Awad and knowingly violating the rules of engagement.

Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, another Marine who reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, is scheduled to be sentenced today.

On Tuesday, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other charges. Thomas is one of four Marines still who has yet to cut a deal.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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