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Soldiers convicted of rape, murder in Iraq

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August 4, 2007

A military jury found a soldier guilty of rape and murder in the slayings of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family, despite testimony that cast doubt on his involvement.

Jurors deliberated much of Friday evening before convicting Army Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 22, of conspiracy to commit rape, rape, housebreaking with intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder.

He faces a mandatory life sentence when a sentencing hearing begins Saturday. The jury will decide if he will be eligible for parole.

Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pa., was charged in connection with the March 12, 2006, rape and slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killings of her family. The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders, but alleged he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout.

Spielman had pleaded guilty on Monday to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstructing justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

Spielman’s grandmother, Nancy Hess, collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was read and prosecutor Maj. William Fischbach ran to her side and called 911. Soldiers in Spielman’s unit fanned the woman with napkins.

Spielman’s sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: “I hate the government. You people put him (in Iraq) and now, this happened.”

Defense attorneys left the courthouse immediately following the verdict and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday amid struggles to overcome a fellow soldier’s recanting of a story that Spielman acted as a lookout during the attack last year.

Spc. James Barker, who has admitted his own role in the assault, said in earlier testimony that he had allowed investigators to draft sworn statements for him that implicated Spielman in the crime.

Barker testified Wednesday that several portions of the document were untrue, including references to Spielman’s role in the conspiracy to attack the family and his knowledge of plans to rape the girl.

But another soldier convicted in the attack, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, testified that Spielman stood guard as his fellow soldiers raped the girl. Cortez said Spielman was within a few feet of the others as they held down the screaming girl but did nothing to stop them.

Barker, Cortez and another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, pleaded guilty for their roles in the slayings and received sentences of five to 100 years under plea agreements with prosecutors.

Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the Army before being charged, faces a possible death sentence when he is tried in federal court in Kentucky. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder and sexual assault.

Barker and Cortez have given investigators conflicting statements about whether Spielman knew of the plan to rape the girl and was present when they discussed it over swigs from bottles of whiskey and gin mixed with energy drinks, according to testimony.

During their courts-martial, Barker and Cortez testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. Green shot the girl in the head after raping her, they said.

The girl’s body was set on fire with kerosene to destroy the evidence, according to previous testimony.

Fort Campbell is a sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

2 Responses to Soldiers convicted of rape, murder in Iraq

  1. Paolo

    August 5, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Our Heroic Military.

    First, we get kids right out of high school, enticing them with offers of free education (but avoiding the fact they will be put into kill-or-be-killed situations).

    Then, we send them to “boot camp,” where there are stripped of their sense of individuality. They learn to kill another human being–a most unnatural act–without thought, on the commands of superiors.

    They are immersed in propaganda about the evil of the enemy, who is given a dehumanizing name like that varies according to who the enemy of the day is. Kraut, Jap, Sand-Nigger, Hadji, skinnies, gook–all such names are meant to dehumanize the enemy, making them easier to kill.

    We blow the enemy to smithereens from fifty thousand feet, we burn their villages, we shoot them at will.

    This poor Schmuck of a 22-year-old, after going through all this, probably thought: “rape? Compared to all the other stuff we do, what’s the big deal?”

    To quote the story:

    “Spielman was within a few feet of the others as they held down the screaming girl but did nothing to stop them.”

    Yes, Sean Hannity–everyone who dons the uniform of our Imperial Military is automatically a “hero.”

    Our Imperial Military, far from being made up of heroes, is made up of young men methodically stripped of their individuality and their natural aversion to harming and killing other human beings.

    A military strictly limited to self defense can be justified. This was the original intent of the Constitution. But a military designed to prosecute aggressive war around the world in furtherance of an Empire, must be taught brutality.

  2. chimpo-bites

    August 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for your comment… I entirely agree!

    “The American fascists method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public.
    – Vice President Henry Wallace.. April 1944