FT. CAMPBELL, Ky., (Reuters) – A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family was sentenced to 100 years in a military prison, the U.S. Army said on Thursday.
Sgt. Paul Cortez, 24, was also given a dishonorable discharge under a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors prior to a court-martial that spanned three days, an Army spokesman said.
Cortez, of Barstow, California, was not eligible for the death penalty under his plea agreement, accepted by the court on Wednesday.
Col. Stephen R. Henley, the military judge, found Cortez guilty of conspiracy to commit rape, four counts of felony murder, rape, housebreaking and violating a general order.
Under terms of his plea agreement, Cortez agreed to testify against the three others still facing prosecution in the case.
During the court-martial, a sometimes emotional Cortez recounted how he and his companions drank whiskey, played cards and plotted to attack the family at Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006. The group poured kerosene on the girl’s body and lit her on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.
Cortez testified that Spc. James Barker, who also pleaded guilty in the case, and a since-discharged soldier, Pvt. Steven Green, chose the family to attack because there was only one man in the house and it was an “easy target.”
Once at the house, Green, the suspected ringleader, took the girl’s mother, father and little sister into a bedroom, Cortez said, while he and Barker took the teenager, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, to the living room, where they took turns raping her. He said Green, who has been charged as a civilian and awaits trial in a Kentucky jail, shot the girl’s family in another room and then raped the teenager.
The deaths of the girl and her family outraged Iraqis and ratcheted up tension in the war zone.
Barker pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to 90 years in a military prison. Green was discharged from the Army for a “personality disorder.”
Two other soldiers are accused in the case, Pvt. Jesse Spielman and Pvt. Bryan Howard.