Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Soldier gets six-months for death of Iraqi

GUILTY The US Army sergeant who ordered two Iraqi men be thrown into the Tigris River, leading to the death of one, will do time in jail but not be discharged

AP , Fort Hood, Texas

An Army platoon sergeant who ordered his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River was sentenced to six months in military prison, but will not be discharged.

Army Sergeant 1st Class Tracy Perkins was convicted Friday of two counts of aggravated assault, assault consummated by battery and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and making a false statement.

He did not testify during his trial, but before he was sentenced Saturday Perkins told the jury of Army officers and enlisted members that his actions were wrong -- although he did not apologize to the Iraqis. He said he still loved the military and did not want to lose his job.

"If I had to go back, I would definitely do something different on those days," Perkins said, wiping away tears.

Perkins, 33, and another soldier were accused of ordering soldiers to push two Iraqis into the river in Samarra in January 2004. Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out of the river.

Defense attorneys contended Zaidoun may still be alive, but say if he is dead it was not at the hands of US soldiers.

The six-man military jury -- which decided against the manslaughter conviction -- also reduced Perkins' rank by one grade to staff sergeant, which cuts his pay and responsibilities.

Jurors considered a sentencing range of no punishment to a dishonorable discharge, rank reduction and 11 1/2 years in prison. Prosecutors had recommended five years in prison and a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

Perkins was taken to the Bell County Jail because Ford Hood has no jail. It could take up to a week to determine where he will serve his sentence. Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after the sentencing.

Before deliberations began, the prosecutor, Captain Megan Shaw, said Perkins had jeopardized the US mission because insurgents were using the incidents to spread anti-American propaganda.

The defense attorney, Captain Tom Hurley, urged the jurors to consider Perkins' numerous military awards.

Marwan Hassoun testified that he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful current swept Zaidoun away. Marwan said the body was found in the river nearly two weeks later.

Perkins did not discuss specifics of the incident on the stand Saturday, but admitted he had ordered his soldiers to throw an Iraqi man into the river in December 2003.

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