- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Eight soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were ordered yesterday to be court-martialed on murder charges stemming from their service in Iraq, and two could get the death penalty if convicted of raping a 14-year-old and killing her and her family.

Meanwhile yesterday, three Marines were to face courts-martial on charges related to another slaying of an Iraqi civilian. The three will not face the death penalty.

The Fort Campbell soldiers facing the death penalty are Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman. Both are accused of raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in her family’s home in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, then killing the girl, her parents and younger sister in March.

Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard also are accused in the rape and murders but will not face the death penalty, the military said.

Sgt. Barker’s attorney, David Sheldon in Washington, said that his client has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against others, including former Army Pvt. Steven D. Green, who was discharged for a personality disorder and arrested in North Carolina.

Mr. Sheldon also said that he and prosecutors have signed a plea agreement, but wouldn’t discuss details. Any agreement would have to be approved by the court.

“One of the things that the government factors is cooperation of co-accused. And I would certainly think that is a factor in who faces the death penalty in this and who doesn’t,” the lawyer said.

Mr. Green will be tried in federal court in Kentucky. Mr. Green has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder.

Military prosecutors have said the five — all from the division’s 502nd Infantry Regiment — planned the attack from a checkpoint near the family’s home, changed their clothing to hide their identities and set the girl’s body on fire to destroy evidence.

Their unit suffered months of bombings and shootings that injured and killed dozens of comrades. Defense attorneys have argued that soldiers of every rank were emotionally ragged and strained.

In statements given to military investigators, Pfc. Spielman was described as a “lookout” while the others entered the home. His attorneys said they were shocked that he faces the death penalty.

“Even according to the government’s evidence that they’re putting forth, Jesse isn’t even a principal in murder and rape,” said Craig Carlson, Pfc. Spielman’s attorney. Several of the soldiers have military defense attorneys, who are prohibited from discussing their cases outside of a courtroom.

Four soldiers from the division’s 3rd Brigade will be tried in a separate court-martial on charges of killing Iraqi detainees in northern Iraq’s Salahuddin province during a raid on a village.

Also yesterday, the Marine Corps said three Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marines will face courts-martial on murder and kidnapping charges in the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania.

The three were among seven Marines and one Navy corpsman charged with kidnapping and killing Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in April. Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas also will face charges including conspiracy, housebreaking and larceny.

Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general in the case, has not announced a decision on whether the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, will go to trial and what charges he will face. Three other Marines also have been referred to courts-martial.

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