[JURIST] A US Army [official website] sergeant was convicted Monday and sentenced to 35 years in prison for killing four unarmed Iraqi prisoners [NYT report] in 2007. Sgt. First Class Joseph Mayo, formerly of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry [official website] and two other soldiers were charged in September [JURIST report] with shooting the four bound and blindfolded prisoners and disposing of their bodies in a canal. Mayo pleaded guilty at his court-martial proceeding Monday, saying he shot the prisoners because he feared they would be released due to lack of evidence against them. The killings followed a series of attacks against US troops and may have been retribution for the deaths of two US soldiers. Sgt. John Hatley, also charged in the killings, faces court martial proceedings [JURIST report] beginning April 13. According to Mayo's lawyer, Mayo has agreed to testify against Hatley [AP report].
The third man charged, Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., was convicted [JURIST report] in February and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, originally an alleged co-conspirator against whom charges were dropped, testified against Leahy [JURIST report] at his trial. Fellow unit members Spc. Belmor Ramon and Spc. Steven Ribordy pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and accessory to murder [JURIST reports], respectively, in connection with the incident.