Soldier Pleads Guilty to Rape, Killing in Iraq
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A U.S. Marine was sentenced yesterday in California to reduce charges in connection with the kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian. A second Marine is expected to be sentenced today. Across the country at Kentucky's Fort Campbell, a soldier pleaded guilty to raping an Iraqi teenage girl before killing her and her family. He's scheduled to be sentenced today.
NPR's Audie Cornish reports from Fort Campbell.
AUDIE CORNISH: Army Specialist James Barker started the first day of his court martial by greeting one of his friends with a high-five slap. Barker was immediately reprimanded by the bailiff for it. But later, Barker was far more serious when he entered his guilty plea and then proceeded to implicate five current and former soldiers in his admission of guilt. Barker's civilian lawyer says his client takes full responsibility for his actions.
Mr. DAVID SHELDON (Attorney for James Barker): Because he wants to make amends, or at least begin to make amends. I don't he'll ever feel at peace for what happened.
CORNISH: In court, Barker detailed those actions. He said after tossing the idea back and forth over cards and whiskey, he and three other soldiers stationed at a security checkpoint donned unmarked black clothing and masks. According to Barker, they then snuck off to the home of the al-Janabi family, about a thousand feet from their checkpoint.
Barker gave graphic testimony. He said he and the other men raped a 14-year-old girl they'd seen while on patrol. Barker said former Army Private Steven Green shot the girl to death after killing her mother, father and 6-year-old sister.
Barker said the men tried to burn down the house to destroy the evidence and threw the gun they'd used in a nearby canal. Attorney David Sheldon says his client was under acute pressure at the security checkpoint where he and the others were stationed, in the area south of Baghdad known to soldiers as the triangle of death.
Mr. SHELDON: He saw Iraqis die repeatedly. And the dehumanization that took place for Spc. Barker was real. The dehumanization that occurs throughout Iraq today that is causing these types of incidents is a responsibility that the United States must bear.
CORNISH: And Sheldon claims the Army should have done more to stop former Private Green, who's accused of hatching the alleged plan. Green was discharged from the Army weeks after the incident with what the Army called a personality disorder. And Barker claimed that Green joked all the time about wanting to kill Iraqis. But when military judge Lieutenant Colonel Richard Anderson probed for more explicit answers from Barker about why he went along with the plan he claims was hatched by Green, Barker said it was because he hated Iraqis. They can smile at you and then shoot you in the face, he told the court.
Army prosecutors are refusing to comment as sentencing is scheduled to begin today. But by entering into a plea deal, Spc. Barker will escape the death penalty. In return, he has promised to testify against the other accused soldiers, including former Private Steven Green, who's pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in a civilian federal court.
Audie Cornish, NPR News, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
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