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November 15th, 2006 - Soldier Pleads in Iraq Rape, Murder Case

News article by the Associated Press

News article by the New York Times

Summary of the Mahmudiya Massacre

Soldier Pleads in Iraq Rape, Murder Case


By Ryan Lenz

The Associated Press

Wednesday, November 15, 2006; 4:08 PM


Fort Campbell, Ky. - One of four U.S. soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl last spring and killing her and her family pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others.


Spc. James P. Barker agreed to the plea deal to avoid the death penalty, said his civilian attorney, David Sheldon.


The military judge presiding over the case, Lt. Col. Richard Anderson, asked Barker why he participated in the attack in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad. It was among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.


"I hated Iraqis, your honor," Barker answered. "They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."


Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, members of the 101st Airborne Division with Barker, also are charged in the case. Cortez deferred entering a plea during his arraignment Wednesday morning. Spielman will be arraigned in December. The fourth soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, also deferred entering a plea at his arraignment in October.


A fifth person, former Army private Steve Green, 21, pleaded not guilty last week to civilian charges including murder and sexual assault.


Green was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say if they will pursue the death penalty against him.


The defendants are accused of raping the girl and burning her body to conceal their crimes, then killing the girl's father, mother and 6-year-old sister.


After entering his plea Wednesday, Barker gave the court a vivid account of the events.


Barker said he and the others were drinking and playing cards while they manned a traffic checkpoint. Green brought up the idea of raping the girl and killing her family, he said.


"He brought it up to me and asked me what I thought about it. At a couple of points, I told him he was crazy," Barker said.


Barker said he and Green then approached the others with the idea, but there never was a verbal agreement to do it.


"Things just got set in motion, we just started changing (clothes), myself, Cortez and Green," Barker said. "By the time we started changing clothes, it was more or less a nonverbal agreement that we were going to go along with what we were discussing."


Barker said he, Green and Cortez raped the girl, and Green killed the girl, her parents and her sister.


© 2006 The Associated Press


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Soldier Pleads Guilty to Iraq Rape and Killings


By John Holusha

New York Times

November 15, 2006


One of four Army infantrymen charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in Iraq last March and then killing her and her family pleaded guilty today to all charges in a military court at Fort Campbell, Ky.


The plea came on a day when a marine is scheduled to be sentenced at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for his part in the kidnapping and killing of an Iraqi man in a town to the west of Baghdad.


The legal actions are part of the fallout of the fighting in Iraq, where insurgent fighters blend in with the civilian population, frustrating soldiers who are subject to roadside bombing and other attacks.


In a third case, a Marine Corps reservist was sentenced to six months in a military jail after pleading guilty at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to a charge of negligent homicide in the shooting of a fellow marine last year at their barracks in Iraq.


In Kentucky, Specialist James P. Barker, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of rape and murder in one of the most gruesome cases of illegal killings of Iraqi civilians. Specialist Barker is the first of a group of four soldiers to resolve the charges.


Specialist Barker and three other members of Company B of the First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, were charged with raping the girl and killing her, her parents and her 7-year-old sister in the family’s home in Mahmudiya, southwest of Baghdad. It is a volatile area known to American soldiers as the “triangle of death.”


Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez are also charged with rape, premeditated murder and arson; military prosecutors accused the men of burning the girl’s body using kerosene in an effort to conceal evidence. A fifth soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crimes.


Sgt. Cortez was in the court today, but deferred entering a plea, saying he would enter do so at a later date. Both soldiers were wearing dark green dress uniforms.


Specialist Barker’s plea bargain means that he will not face the death penalty, his lawyers said Tuesday. Although he will probably be given a life sentence, the lawyers said, he could be released on parole in 20 years.


At Camp Pendelton, Pfc. John J. Jodka 3d was scheduled to be sentenced today for his part in the killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, who was suspected of being a terrorist. Private Jodka, 20, was part of a squad of seven marines and a Navy corpsman who were accused of kidnapping Mr. Awad in the town of Hamdania, taking him to a roadside hole, shooting him and trying cover up the incident.


Private Jodka pleaded guilty on Oct. 27 to charges of assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to drop other charges including murder and kidnapping.


As part of the plea agreement, Private Jodka testified that he participated in a plan formed by the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins, to kidnap and kill a known insurgent. In the dark, the squad kidnapped and killed the wrong man.


Private Jodka’s sentence has already been determined as part of the agreement, regardless of what the judge rules today.


Another member of the group, Navy Petty Officer Third Class Melson J. Bacos was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison, but will only serve one year because of the plea agreement.


At Camp Lejeune, Lance Cpl. Michael C. Fulcher, 21, was sentenced after pleading guilty to negligent homicide in the killing of Lance Cpl Adam Fales, also 21, who was shot in a barracks at Camp Fallujah.


Cpl. Fulcher testified that his loaded rifle fired accidentally, hitting Cpl. Fales, according to the Associated Press.


“As I picked it up, it discharged, sir,” Cpl. Fulcher said. “I don’t know how.”


Theo Emery contributed reporting.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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