Skip to comments.U.S. soldier pleads not guilty to killing Iraqis
Posted on 09/26/2007 3:09:16 PM PDT by Dubya
A U.S. soldier pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of killing Iraqis and then trying to cover it up by planting weapons on their bodies.
Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval, of Laredo, Texas, has been charged with premeditated murder, wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of the Iraqis and obstructing justice. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Military prosecutors said the deaths occurred separately between April and June near Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni Arab city 30 miles south of Baghdad.
The investigation began after military authorities received reports of alleged wrongdoing from fellow soldiers, the Army has said.
Wearing his military uniform, Sandoval sat flanked by two military defense lawyers during the opening day of his court martial on a U.S. base west of Baghdad.
"War in Iraq is hell," the defense attorney, Capt. Craig Drummond, said in his opening statement. "Battle lines are sometimes unclear. The enemy does not always show itself. The enemy of this war attacks, hides, then attacks again."
Sandoval faces five charges, including an April 27 murder of an unknown Iraqi male, placing a detonation wire on his body, premeditated murder of another Iraqi male with a 9mm pistol on May 11, placing an AK-47 rifle on his body and failing to ensure humane treatment of a detainee - the victim.
The prosecutor, Capt. Sarah Rykowski, told the court it must decide "what was in the accused's mind when he shot an unknown man cutting grass" and killed another "with a 9mm pistol from a few inches away."
Spc. Alexander Flores, who was in the same squad as Sandoval on the day of the April killing, testified they were acting on orders of their platoon leader who said the suspect was "our guy" and ordered them to "move in," which they interpreted as "take the target out."
After the killing, Flores said Hensley told him to place a spool of detonation wire on the body and in the man's pocket, which would make him appear to be an insurgent.
"The burden to prove this case is on the government," Drummond told The Associated Press during a recess. "We heard from Flores' own mouth that he placed the command wire on the body, not Sandoval."
Sgt. Evan Vela of Rigby, Idaho, and Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley of Candler, N.C. are also charged in the case. They are part of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Sandoval was arrested in June while on a two-week leave visiting his family.
Vela's defense attorney, Gary Myers, claimed earlier this week that Army snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, then kill whoever picked up the items. He said his client was acting "pursuant to orders."
Vela, who is being flown in from Kuwait, was expected to testify Thursday.
Another prosecution witness, Capt. Matthew Didier, testified that on the day of the second killing, he was monitoring the snipers from an observation post and communicating with them over the radio when he received a report from Hensley saying a man who had approached them was armed.
"I authorized a close kill with a 9mm, based on Sgt. Hensley's report," Didier testified.
The Washington Post, which first reported the "baiting" program, said it was devised by the U.S. Army's Asymmetric Warfare Group, which advises commanders in unconventional conflicts.
Within months of the "baiting" program's introduction, Sandoval, Vela and Hensley were charged with murder for allegedly using those tactics to make shootings seem legitimate, according to the Post.
The Army has declined to confirm such a program exists.
The Iraq war has seen U.S. service members face prosecution in several high-profile incidents, including abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, the killings of 24 civilians by Marines in Haditha, and the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family south of Baghdad. Iraqis often accuse American soldiers of unnecessary killings or abuse, fueling resentment toward U.S. forces.
It sounds like the prosecution's witness agrees with the defense case.
Unless there is more, they should drop the case now.
Like, what else would he be wearing to his Court Martial in a war zone? A zoot suit perhaps? Maybe some saggy, baggy shorts, an oversized basket ball jersey and a ball cap sitting backwards or sideways on his head?
Don't think so Dude.
???? 9mm is for when you don't have or can't get to your primary weapon, be that a 5.56mm, 7.62mm, .50 caliber or 25mm for that matter.
And they don't wear uniforms either, instead they hide amongst the civilian population. Then they scream about it when their activities bring hellfire down on the heads of those civilians.. and of course themselves as well.
No, he's pleading not guilty to murdering them.
They If this is the case I'm thinking of, even CID said it was "justifiable homicide". IOW, they needed killing.