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Third US soldier pleads guilty in Mahmudiya rape-murder case

[JURIST] A third US soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl [JURIST news archive] and the murder of her family in the Mahmudiya area last March. Pfc. Bryan Howard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit rape and premeditated murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a case that has implicated five servicemen. Co-defendants Spc. James P. Barker and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, who each pleaded guilty, both previously testified that Howard had a minimal role in the crimes. Howard testified in his sentencing hearing Wednesday that he remained at a checkpoint during the crime and did not realize what had occurred until after the fact. If convicted, Howard faces up to 15 years in prison.

Last month Cortez was sentenced to 100 years in prison [JURIST report] with the possibility of parole after 10 years. In November, Barker pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to the rape and murder charges and was sentenced to 90 years in prison [JURIST report], an effective life sentence, but with the possibility of parole. Pfc. Jesse Spielman still faces an April 2 court martial, and former US Army Pfc. Steven D. Green [JURIST news archive], discharged from the military because of a personality disorder before the allegations arose, has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in his civilian trial in federal court in Kentucky. Green is said to have been the key player in the rape and murders. In January it was revealed that three months before the attack, Green was diagnosed by military mental health workers as a homicidal threat [JURIST report]. Howard initially reported to investigators that "Green was probably crazy enough to do it," but has since confessed that he made these statements to protect Cortez, Barker, and Spielman, with knowledge of their guilt. AP has more.

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