[JURIST] US Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval was sentenced Saturday to five months in prison for his role in covering up the shootings of three unarmed Iraqis. Sandoval was convicted Friday at his court-martial of planting evidence but was acquitted of premeditated murder [JURIST report]. In addition to the prison sentence, Sandoval will receive a reduction in rank and will be required to forfeit his pay.
Sandoval was charged [press release; JURIST report] along with Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley and Sgt. Evan Vela with premeditated murder and wrongfully placing a weapon with the remains of a deceased Iraqi for his role in the incidents, which took place in April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, Iraq [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Vela and Hensley will be tried separately. Vela's lawyer has argued that Vela was simply following orders to "bait" suspected Iraqi insurgents with materials that could be used to aid the insurgency and then kill them. In August, Hensley refused to accept a plea agreement [JURIST report], saying he was innocent of the charges against him. AP has more.
[JURIST] A federal judge has refused to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and ruled that Murtha must provide a deposition in the case. US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website], who is facing charges [JURIST report] for his alleged role in the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians, brought the defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] last year. The lawsuit alleges that Murtha falsely accused Wuterich of war crimes during a press conference where Murtha discussed [JURIST report] the November 2005 killings in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Government lawyers had argued that the case should be dismissed because Murtha's comments came while the congressman was acting in his official capacity, but Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled Friday that Murtha must provide testimony to explain his actions. A date for the deposition has not yet been set.
Wuterich commanded the platoon implicated in the Haditha killings and suspected cover-up. He faces several counts of unpremeditated murder, as well as charges of soliciting another to commit an offense and making a false official statement. AP has more.
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