Sunday, August 05, 2007

More war crimes: Army private gets 110 years for rape, murder or 14 year old

[NY Times reports on the sentencing of Pvt Jesse Spielman for raping a 14 year old Iraqi girl, and killing her and her family.]

A 23-year-old Army private was sentenced last night to 110 years in prison, a day after a military jury convicted him of rape and four counts of murder for his role in the attack last year on an Iraqi family in Mahmudiya, a hostile Sunni Arab town south of Baghdad.

The private, Jesse Spielman, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit rape and housebreaking with the intent to commit rape, said a spokesman at Fort Campbell, Ky., where the hearing was held. The jury consisted mostly of Army officers from the fort.

Private Spielman is the third soldier from Company B, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division to be convicted of murder and rape in the case, in which soldiers sexually forced themselves on a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and then killed her and her family.

In February, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, was sentenced to 90 years in prison; last November, an Army judge sentenced Specialist James P. Barker to 100 years in prison. Sergeant Cortez and Specialist Barker will each be eligible for parole after 10 years in prison, according to Dan Christensen, one of Private Spielman’s civilian lawyers.

Prosecutors said the three soldiers and another private in their unit, Steven D. Green, who was discharged on psychiatric ground apparently before the Army learned of the episode, had barged into the family’s home, where three of them raped Abeer Qassim al-Janabi while her parents and 7-year-old sister were kept in a back room.

Unlike Sergeant Cortez and Specialist Barker, who each pleaded guilty to rape and murder in exchange for a term of years, Private Spielman sought acquittal at court-martial because, according to his lawyers and the other soldiers convicted in the case, he did not physically participate in the rape or murders.

“He didn’t rape anybody, and he didn’t kill anybody,” Mr. Christensen, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The next phase of the government’s prosecution in the Mahmudiya rape and murder will be the trial of Mr. Green, in a federal court in Kentucky.

Prosecutors have said he was the ringleader and enthusiastically urged the other soldiers to join in the attack on the family. It was Mr. Green, prosecutors say, who after raping Abeer killed her and her family with an AK-47 that the family was legally allowed to keep in the house.

Mr. Green is to be tried on murder and rape charges in the coming months. He has pleaded not guilty, but he faces a mounting set of witnesses and punishments.

As part of their plea arrangements, Specialist Barker and Sergeant Cortez, now in the Army’s main prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., have promised to testify against him. A few weeks ago, the Justice Department said it would seek the death penalty if he was convicted.

[First, note that his accomplices, who were sentenced to 90 or 100 years, will be eligible for parole after 10. Will they be let off when eligible, and would it be right if they were? The prosecutors will apparently be seeking the death penalty for Spielma, the ringleader; does he deserve to die? If he does deserve to die, will he get what he deserves, or will he be let off?

On one hand, the US military and civilian judicial systems have consistently let US soldiers get away with murder or rape and not be fully punished; this denigrates the humanity of their victims. On the other hand, these soldiers are young men and women, thrown into a horrific situation. Their commanders are not placing their own lives at risk, or the lives of their own children. There is indication that their commanders have economic interests in the occupation. And there is irrefutable evidence that many of those commanders lied to get us to go to war.

Should those commanders face ultimate responsibility for these crimes? Should they be more harshly punished than their soldiers?]

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