Soldier sentenced in rape and murder
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – A soldier convicted of rape and murder in an attack on an Iraqi teenager and her family was sentenced Saturday to 110 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.The sentence was part of a plea agreement attorneys for Pfc. Jesse Spielman had made with prosecutors that set the number of years he could serve in prison, regardless of the jury’s recommendation.The jury had recommended life with parole, a sentence under which he would have to wait longer for the possibility of freedom.Spielman was convicted late Friday of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with intent to rape and four counts of felony murder.Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders but alleged that he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout.In closing arguments, the military prosecutor, Maj. William Fischbach, said Spielman played a “bit part” but stressed he shared responsibility.Spielman took the stand to petition jurors for leniency before he was sentenced.”I don’t really blame my chain of command. I don’t really blame anybody,” he said quietly. “I could have stopped it. I take responsibility for my actions.”Spielman, 23, of Chambersburg, Pa., received the longest sentence of four soldiers who have been convicted. Three other soldiers pleaded guilty under agreements with prosecutors for their roles in the assault and were given sentences ranging from five to 100 years.Spielman’s grandmother, Nancy Hess, collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was read; 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 declined to comment after the sentencing hearing.Spielman had pleaded guilty on Monday to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstructing justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking. The 110-year sentence encompasses those crimes, too.The case stemmed from the March 12, 2006, rape and slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, 14, and the killings of her parents and sister. The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.Prosecutors rested their case Thursday amid struggles to overcome a fellow soldier’s recanting of a story that Spielman acted as a lookout.Spc. James Barker said in earlier testimony that he had allowed investigators to draft sworn statements for him that implicated Spielman.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 Sgt. Paul E. Cortez testified that Spielman stood guard. Cortez said Spielman was within a few feet of the others as they held down the screaming girl and did nothing to stop them.Barker, Cortez and another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, pleaded guilty for their roles.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 gave investigators conflicting statements about whether Spielman knew of the plan to rape the girl and whether he was present when they discussed it over whiskey and gin, 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.
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