Capital Charges Filed In Rape-Slaying Case

Television image shows house in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, where an Iraqi girl and her family were killed. Five U.S. soldiers and one former soldier face charges.
Television image shows house in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, where an Iraqi girl and her family were killed. Five U.S. soldiers and one former soldier face charges. (Associated Press)
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BAGHDAD, July 10 -- Military authorities on Monday disclosed that they had filed capital charges of premeditated rape and murder against four of the five active-duty soldiers accused in an attack on an Iraqi family in March.

A 15-year-old Iraqi girl, who was allegedly raped, was killed along with her mother, father and younger sister in the attack in a village near Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman are charged with rape, murder, housebreaking, arson and drinking alcohol against military rules, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, was charged with premeditated murder, rape and obstruction of justice. The four soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.

The fifth active-duty soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for allegedly failing to report the incident. Yribe was not directly involved in the attack, U.S. military spokesmen in Baghdad said.

The incident is one of the gravest of a series being investigated by the U.S. military in which Americans are accused of killing Iraqi civilians.

"Again, these are alleged offenses," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters. "They're presumed innocent until proven guilty."

A sixth man, Steven D. Green, a former private, was discharged from the military for a "personality disorder" after the Mahmudiyah killings but before fellow soldiers identified American soldiers as the alleged culprits, sparking the criminal investigation. Green pleaded not guilty last week in Louisville to federal charges of rape and murder.

A federal affidavit in Green's case and accounts given to The Washington Post by neighbors, an uncle of the 15-year-old, the local mayor and medical authorities allege that at least four of the soldiers came to the home of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi after noticing her from their post at a U.S. Army checkpoint near her home.

The assailants allegedly shot and killed Abeer's father, mother and 7-year-old sister, then raped and killed Abeer in another room. Abeer's body and part of the room were set on fire, apparently in an attempt to conceal the crime, U.S. investigators and Iraqi officials said.

The federal affidavit alleges that Green fired all of the shots and was one of two soldiers who directly participated in the alleged rape.

In Chambersburg, Pa., a woman answering the telephone at a contact number listed for Spielman declined to identify herself directly but said Spielman was her son.

"We haven't been told anything. We haven't heard anything, and that's the truth," the woman said. Relatives had yet to be able to contact Spielman to hear from him directly, she said.

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