Sun, Aug 05, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US soldier guilty of raping Iraqi girl and slaying her family

AP , FORT CAMPBELL, KENTUCKY

A military jury has found a soldier guilty of rape and murder in the slayings of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family.

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

Spielman was charged in connection with the slaying of the girl on March 12 last year and the killings of her family. The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, a village about 30km 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 obstruct justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for yesterday morning. Spielman faces a mandatory life sentence. The jury was also set to decide if he would be eligible for parole.

Spielman's grandmother, Nancy Hess, collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was read and prosecutor Major William Fischbach ran to her side and called emergency services for medics.

Spielman's sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: "I hate the government. You people put him [in Iraq] and now, this happened."

Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday amid struggles to overcome a fellow soldier's recanting of a story that Spielman acted as a lookout.

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

Barker testified on Wednesday that several portions of the document were untrue.

Barker, Cortez and another soldier, Private First Class Bryan Howard, pleaded guilty for their roles in the slayings and received sentences of five to 100 years.

Steven Green, who was discharged from the Army before being charged, faces a possible death sentence when he is tried in federal court in Kentucky.

During their courts-martial, Barker and Cortez testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot 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.

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