Charges Against U.S. Soldier Steven Green

Michele Norris speaks with Peter Spiegel, Pentagon correspondent for the Los Angeles Times on charges that U.S. soldier Steven Green raped and murdered an Iraqi woman and killed three of her family members, including a child.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

All over the country, people woke up to newspapers carrying a photo of a skinny 21-year-old wearing a Johnny Cash T-shirt. He was being led by federal marshals after a court appearance in Charlotte, North Carolina. That young man is Steven Green, a recently discharged Army private. He's potentially facing the death penalty on charges that he raped and murdered an Iraqi woman and killed three of her family members, including a child.

Prosecutors say Green and four other soldiers plotted the rape while drinking alcohol at a checkpoint in the town of Mahmudiyah. The group allegedly changed out of their uniforms and into black clothing to carry out their attack.

Peter Spiegel is a Pentagon correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He says not much is known about the accused, Steven Green.

Mr. PETER SPIEGEL (Los Angeles Times): We don't know a whole lot. We know that he left the Army at least two months ago and the reason we know that, frankly, is talking to the Army. They can't find his service records and so they say their system has usually cleaned out between a month and two months. So they're still actually gathering information about who he is, what his record was. We know he was there, in the military for about 11 months and we know he was discharged for what they're calling a personality disorder.

Now, in talking to the Army, they say that a personality disorder, as described in a discharge paper, does not necessarily mean the kinds of things we come to be used to in a psychiatrist's text or something like that. It generally means someone who is determined to be not fit for service. Perhaps he was overly aggressive, was not taking well to be in a foreign country. We're still trying to get details out about that as well and some of that's beginning to come out of Baghdad.

Other than that we don't know a whole lot about him and what will be interesting to see, particularly since this is going through the civilian court system, is we'll probably get a lot more information about who he was, what he was doing there, why he joined the military and why the military decided to discharge him after 11 months.

NORRIS: For now, do we know what part of the country he's from, his parents or other family members?

Mr. SPIEGEL: Well, he's from Texas. He was arrested in North Carolina, though, because he was visiting his grandparents there. And obviously he was based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, so that was home for the most recent part of his life and that's where he's been charged and that's where he's going to be extradited to once the hearings in North Carolina are taken care of, which is probably going to finish up on this upcoming Monday. So we should see him back in Kentucky probably within the next couple of weeks.

NORRIS: Will it stay in the civilian court system? Is there an effort to move this to a military system?

Mr. SPIEGEL: We've already heard some grumbling in the last 24 hours that the military may try to pull that back in. They may try to reactivate Green to say okay, he's back in the military and we're going to charge him.

Now, the reason behind that is a little bit vague at this point. Some of it is just pure jurisdictional territorialism. I mean, we get this when local police and the FBI sort of fight each other for jurisdiction. I've got to say at this point it looks a bit like the military wants to bring it back into their judicial system so they can control it a bit more.

NORRIS: It seems likes that's risky, though, with the international community calling for a full investigation. Some are calling for U.N. ambassadors or sort of U.N. oversight of this trial.

Mr. SPIEGEL: But the track record, if you look at the track record, Abu Ghraib was handled internally in the military, Haditha's being handled internally in the military. There was a lot of outrage about those two, but the outrage seems to have died down.

The other remarkable thing is in Iraq itself, I've been talking to our guys in Baghdad in the last few hours, you're not getting the kind of outrage that the military was expecting. It's only been 24 hours since this came to light. There's some real nervousness now that this could gain more traction with the Iraqis, cause a lot more outrage there.

NORRIS: There's some question as to the age of the rape victim.

Mr. SPIEGEL: Yeah.

NORRIS: It ranges from 25 to 15.

Mr. SPIEGEL: Yeah, the FBI in their affidavit uses the age estimate of 25. The Iraqi medical and government authorities in the town have gone with 14 or 15, citing family members. The Army officials I've talked to have gone with the age of 20. Frankly, we may not learn what her actual age is.

This is a part of the country that is not - it's not Baghdad, it's south of Baghdad, Baghdad being a rather cosmopolitan place where you have things like birth certificates. We may not have that in this case. It is a bit of a bone of contention with the Army because they're a little bit nervous if it comes out that it was someone who's a 14- or 15-year-old, for obvious reasons.

So they are trying to put out the word that they believe it was an adult. Unfortunately, adult may mean any woman of childbearing years, which, as we know, can be anywhere from, you know, post-pubescent to 25.

NORRIS: Could be 14, 15.

Peter Spiegel covers the Pentagon for the Los Angeles Times. Peter, thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. SPIEGEL: Thanks for having me.

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