- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — One of four U.S. soldiers accused of raping an Iraqi girl last spring and killing her and her family pleaded guilty yesterday and will 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 killings in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, both members of the 101st Airborne Division with Spc. Barker, could face the death penalty if convicted in the case in courts-martial at Fort Campbell.

Former Army Pvt. Steve Green, 21, pleaded not guilty last week to charges including murder and sexual assault.

Pvt. Green was discharged from the Army for a “personality disorder” before the accusations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say whether they will pursue the death penalty against him.

The indictment accuses Pvt. Green and others of raping the girl and burning her body to conceal their crimes. It also charges that Pvt. Green and four others stationed at a nearby checkpoint killed the girl’s father, mother and 6-year-old sister.

Spc. Barker has already given investigators vivid accounts of the assault. An investigator testified during a hearing in August that Spc. Barker had said the soldiers drank whiskey and played cards while plotting the assault, that Spc. Barker, Sgt. Cortez and Pvt. Green took turns raping the girl, and that Pvt. Green fatally shot her and her family.

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